Saturday, March 19, 2016

We Moved!

I moved my blog! It's still in the early stages, and it needs a LOT more design, but you can now find Apron Notes at:

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Plum Pie and Venison Stew with Kålrot

Plum pie and venison stew. Life is tough. These are two easy-peasy recipes that get a lot of bang for their buck, -_- pun intended. Aaanyway, if you get your hands on venison, as I seem to, this is a tasty simple stew. Hilde happened to have the meat of a red deer, a really big beast, thawing in the fridge. She turned it over to me.

Venison Stew with Kålrot

I'm calling it "Kålrot" because the vegetable in question goes by so many names. The humble Brassica naps goes by swede, rutabaga, and neep, all depending on what part of the English speaking world you come from. That's too confusing for me! I opted to go local and call it by its Norwegian name. So, enough of that.

Take your venison, however much you want, and slice it into about 3-4cm chunks. Season them with salt and pepper, and dust them in a light coating of flour. Heat a heavy bottomed pan over high heat. Brown the meat well in a mix of oil and butter. Do it in batches and remove the browned pieces to a plate. Overcrowding the browning meat will allow it to brown and keep it from just steaming; mixing oil and butter stops the butter from burning as quickly. Little tricks.

Browning some Venison in terrible lighting
When the meat is all done there should be a bunch of brown bits in the bottom of the pot. These are most excellent. They are pure meaty caramel flavour. Put a little bit of water in the pot and scrape the bits (frond, they call it) free from the bottom. Then, on to the veg.

The Veg
I added what I had on hand, and it turned out deliciously. I wanted this stew to be heavy on the meat with less emphasis on the vegetables, so I chose things that would meld into the stew. First add the kålrot, onions, and leek. Add as little water as possible to keep them cooking well. Then, let the whole shebang simmer for a loooong time. When the meat is soft, throw in the carrots, and cook until they are just soft. Hopefully the water level is low, and the stew has thickened up a bit by the end. 

We served it with mashed potatoes that Hilde made. Her mom loved the stew, and kept taking more! It was a success!

Plum Pie

Around here we call it Hilde Pie for obvious reasons. Its pretty straight forward. Make my crust recipe with the fancy French name Pate Brisee, and get your hands on a whole lot of plums. Usually people use Italian prune plums for a pie, but we had a firm eating plum, and I went with it. I quartered the plums, added sugar, and a slurry of cornstarch (cornflour) and cold water. I took about 2/3 of them and cooked them in a pot until it was very thick and jammy. I let the jam cool and tossed the remaining plums in it. I then rolled out the pie crust, poured in my filling, slapped a top on, glazed it with egg yolk, dusted it with sugar, and baked it. I'd say bake it around 400˚F/200˚C for the first 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350˚F/175˚C until the filling is bubbling up and the crust looks done. Et voila!

You can choose how thick you want the filling based on how much cornstarch you add. The consistency is completely dependent on the water content of your plums. These were pretty juicy, and I left the filling quite loose. That's why it is pooling in the bottom of the dish. It didn't bother us one bit. It flowed together with the cream and was irresistible.

Again, it was a winner with Hilde's mom. Her father isn't fond of cooked plums, and so didn't eat it. Hilde just asked for more pie. A woman after my own heart!

The North Sea's Bounty: Fishing up a Storm

We went fishing today! Hilde's father set the nets yesterday, and after a breakfast of tea, cottage cheese and strawberries, and bread and brown cheese (brunost),  we set out to pull them in.

I'm the wimpiest Alaskan alive, and Hilde saw me well outfitted. I was wearing stretch pants, wool long underwear, a tank top, a shirt, a wool shirt, two pairs of wool socks, a scarf, a headband, a huge waterproof snowsuit, and green boots. I also had a pair of woolen felted mittens that her mother made. They were amazingly warm, even when wet. Despite all of my wrappings, I still ended up absolutely freezing. My toes went completely white. So it goes.

We pulled up brown crab, cod, lumpfish, pollock, ballan wrasse, Hyas coarctatus, and lots of very stubborn seaweed. I helped pull up a few of the nets, one of them was stuck to the bottom by stubborn seaweed, it made me look so feeble as it fought me with a vengeance. Hide and I emptied the nets, and Hilde put the nets away while I gutted the fish.

Afterwards we ate a mountain of cod poached in salt water, boiled potatoes, and carrots. It wasn't the most interesting of meals, but it was tasty and traditional. We also poached little parchment packages filled with the cod roe. It was very very subtle, rich, and delicious. 

Got Crabs?
The Impressive Rebecca pulls tiny fish from the nets!
I'm a pretty pretty Mermaid!
The male lumpfish had a bumpy slimy patch on his chest that looked rather rude...
So, of course, I loved him!
The End

Uncle Ola's Fisk Stew: Onkel Olas Fiskegryte

We ate this tasty stew today. It might be simple, but it is very worthy of a try. Hilde's mom started the stew, and her father put the finishing touches to it. I learned later, while washing the cars outside, that it's Uncle Ola's recipe. Note to self: washing cars in 2˚C, while wearing a snowsuit, in heavy wind, is badass.

 Ola is the favorite uncle, who died recently, leaving his lovely wife, a lady 30 years his junior. He was quite the character! Many years ago Onkel Ola was helping his brother, Hilde's grandfather, Jon Haralsied, paint the house. When they were almost done Old Lady Olga walked by and said, complaining, "oh, that isn't very nice." And, without hesitation, Onkel Ola turns to Old Lady Olga and says,"If I want your opinion, I'll ask for it!" He was always one for being outspoken and opinionated. I'm starting to see where Hilde gets it!

Onkel Olas Fiskegryte

This recipe can be scaled up or down very easily. Add as many of the veggies as you want, and just remember to use 100g of cooked fish per person.

2 large potatoes
2 carrots
3 stalks of celery
1/2 of a medium leek

3 dL sour cream
2 tablespoons flour
milk to thin

400g of cooked whitefish (cod, halibut, pollock, etc.)
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Boil the vegetables in as little water as possible until soft. Add the cream, flour, and milk to give the stew the consistency of a chowder, however you like it. Then add in the fish and cook for about ten minutes to let the flavors blend. Season to taste. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Møkstrafjorden Seaweed and Bekkjarvik Gjestiveri

On our evening walk, we came to a little cove in the fjord around the island called Møkstrafjorden. It was absolutely gorgeous, and so I rushed down to the water where I saw a wide array of beautiful seaweed. I was squealing like a little kid. I counted over five varieties. Hilde had no idea why I was so excited. She said that the seaweed wasn't a traditional food in this area. I was astounded! So, of course, I picked some. Kelp (Laminaria digitata) seems to be in abundance everywhere. I also saw badderlocks, or Irish wakame (Alaria esculenta), bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus), and many others. I dried some of the seaweed to bring home, and I think I'm going to make a salad with the rest of it. Remember to make sure that any seaweed you collect comes from water that is safe and clean! I'll post when I finally cook with my beautiful find!

One of Norway's most famous chefs, and winner of the 2012 Bocuse d'Or Europe, Ørjan Johannessen, was mentioned in a newspaper article we saw that night. He seems to have done the same thing that I did when he saw the seaweed. There was a big picture of him with a leaf of badderlocks, bright green, and just out of its blanching liquid. He is serving it as a salad in his famous restaurant Bekkjarvik Gjestiveri in Austevoll. The article says that he blanches it, slices it into thin strips, tosses it in olive oil with fresh ginger, fennel seed, a little sesame oil, and a dash of soy sauce. 

Hilde and I had the pleasure of eating there last year. It was a present to Hilde from my mother, as a thank you for hosting me. She was so excited! It was adorable. Here are some photos:

The view from the restaraunt in Bekkjarvik
Hilde being fancy!
Fiskesuppe, Fish Soup
Breiflabb, Anglerfish
Chocolate Bomb with Raspberry Sorbet
Caramel Pudding (Oh My Wow!)

Norwegian Spelt Apple Cake and Sweetened Sour Cream: Eplekake med Speltmel og Søtet Rømme

I found this little recipe to make for my wheat intolerant friend Hilde. I made it for her a year ago, and then again this year. The two photos illustrate what a huge difference bakeware and ovens can make. The oven used on the cake below is really unstable. I brought my oven thermometer along. Yes, I travel with an oven thermometer! It showed that the oven is significantly under temperature, and that it doesn't have a similar temperature throughout.  We were fiddling with it the whole time. 

As I said, I used spelt in this recipe. Spelt, an ancient grain, does have gluten, and is very much like wheat. It is different in that it hasn't been so aggressively altered genetically. It is extremely similar to wheat, almost indistinguishably so,  in both flavor and utility. You can buy white and whole grain spelt flour. This recipe uses unbleached white flour, and can be wheat flour with no problem at all. Enjoy!

Eplekake med Speltmel

225g unbleached white flour (1C)
225g sugar (1C)
225g softened butter (2 sticks)
4 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
10ml vanilla extract (2 tsp)
2 large apples in fine dice
2-3 large apples thinly sliced for decoration
sugar to sprinkle over the top, granular sugar, demerara, or white sanding sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 190C/ 375F/ gas 5, and grease a 23 cm/9 inch cake tin.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together, saving the sliced apples for decoration.
  3. Arrange the thinly sliced apples on top and sprinkle with sugar.
  4. Bake until the middle is cooked, approximately 40 minutes.
I like to serve this with a little bit of cream. This cream is AMAZING, and is especially tasty with sliced strawberries or other fresh fruit. I learned the recipe from a former boss and mentor who came from *shhhh* Swedish heritage.

Søtet Rømme

Mix sour cream with sugar and vanilla extract, you can really use any sort of vanilla you want. I have some vanilla bean paste I like to use, but recently I've learned that a lot of people are put off by the little black seeds. Grow up already! Anyway, mix that up and loosen it to your desired consistency with some heavy whipping cream or double cream. It's pretty indulgent, and a nice break from putting ice-cream with everything.

I found this recipe on the blog Azélia's Kitchen. Thank you!

Norway: My friend Hilde

On top of Sjenestølen in Drøna, an island near Austevoll, Norway. 

I'm back in Norway! I met my friend Hilde in Anchorage a few years back. We have a number of mutual friends, and were on a week-long canoe trip back in 2014. We hit it off right away, and so last year, when I was on a European adventure, I decided to stop by. This year, she was my first stop.

Whenever we are together we have loads of fun cooking. Hilde can't eat wheat, but she can eat spelt, and all of our recipes reflect her dietary restrictions. My next few posts will be some of the recipes we've shared.

Hilde's family has sheep. As do, it seems, all of the neighbors. I love sheep a lot. They're amazing animals, and these sheep are for meat. It's some of the best lamb and mutton in the world. The sheep graze on juniper and heather, and have access to the salt of the Norwegian seaside.

The family eats sheep and mutton all sorts of ways, but they seem to usually roast it with rosemary and juniper inside of a roasting bag. The sheep aren't very fatty, and the fat that is there is distinct from the meat, so it's even tasty when it's cold. I had some with my homemade bread and sweet mustard yesterday, and it was really good!

Yesterday we went to feed the sheep some kitchen scraps. We filled their little trough, and went out to call them. The little buggers were nowhere to be found! We climbed up and down granite hills and trudged though soggy ground for an hour and a half. No sheep. Well, they were as elusive as ever! We gave up after we had gone to the far edge of the island and back. We settled in to change out of our wet clothing and watch Midsomer Murders while drinking hard cider. Sometimes your animals outsmart you. Better luck next time. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Chapter Two: On the Road

I'm BAAAACK! After a super long time.  I'm here to share the next chapter of my life with all of you!

As I kiss the Manly Man goodbye once again, gather my bags, and make my way to security, I can't help but think that this time is different.

"You're cute! Don't get me in trouble!" Flirts the older black TSA officer as he checks my passport. An auspicious beginning to my next chapter.

I'm off again. Yesterday I moved the last of my worldly possessions from I place I have considered home for fifteen years. I tucked them, lovingly, into a stark white cubicle, to wait until I'm ready for them once again. All that remains with me is a small black carry-on and a black leather purse. I even park my little blue car at a friend's.

"I'll be back in mid-May," I say, trying to convince myself as I hand over the key. Return to what? I don't have a place to live; I don't have a job. I have friends. All over the world I have friends.

I've decided to devote time and effort into tell you stories of my adventures. And, seeing as how I'm me, they will mostly be adventures of my food. Let's do this thing!