Many traditional Norwegian dishes may not be pretty, but most are very tasty. Today we had a Norwegian post-holiday dinner of pinnekjøtt: salted dried sheep ribs. Like dried salted cod for bacalao, but made with lamb ribs. These were also smoked. It’s a Western Norway Christmas dish, which has gotten quite popular in other parts of Norway as well. Still, I am quite sure we are the only people in Rome having this dinner tonight! I bought these in Norway in December, and these were also smoked. It’s hardy peasant food that keeps for ages, and is really tasty. Pinnekjøtt translates to stick meat, as this should be steamed over birch sticks.
On the plate above: at six o’clock, pinnekjøtt. Then, potato, surkål (like sauerkraut, but not fermented), and mashed swede (kålrotstappe), to which I added a few carrots to make it milder. Finally, ertestuing (mushy peas) and in the centre, some lingonberry jam. All served with Norwegian juleøl (Christmas beer, carried back after the holidays) and Christmas akevitt. The akevitt went to Spain with us for Christmas, and we forgot to drink it, so it was high time to enjoy some. For dessert, I had made the NYT Lemon Bars With Olive Oil and Sea Salt. Very nice!
In case you fancy some salty rustic goodness, here is what to do.
Buy your packet or two of pinnekjøtt in your closest Norwegian supermarket, where it is usually available in December. Carry it it back with your Christmas presents, and spend the next month muttering over how it is taking most of the space in the fridge. The night before you will cook it, remember to soak the ribs in cold water overnight, changing water once (the packaging will tell you about this.) This rehydrates the meat and makes it less salty. Put the juleøl in the fridge to cool.
The next day: In a large pot, build a grid with your birch sticks by criss-crossing the sticks in the bottom of the pot, or use a metal steamer basket.
Fill the pot with water to the top, but not over the grid. Add the ribs and cover allowing the meat to steam for 2 – 3 hours on low heat. Add add water now and then so the pot does not go dry. I put something heavy on the lid to keep steam inside. When the meat falls off the bone, it is done. Popping them in the oven under the grill for five minutes or so just before serving will crisp the ribs up nicely.
In the interim, boil potatoes, prepare surkål and kålrotstappe, and ertestuing. Some of these are available in easily made packets, if you are in Norway. Being Rome, I made these mushy peas from scratch, which is actually quite easy.
Preparing ertestuing (mushy peas) for pinnekjøtt
500 grammes dried green peas (split peas will cook faster, if you can get them)
enough water to cover peas
2 tbs flour
200 ml milk
2-3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
These peas were split green peas, and not meant to need soaking, but I soaked them for some hours just in case. Drain off soaking water, and add enough water to cover the peas. Cook on low heat for an hour or so; a little more water might be needed. When the peas are getting soft, stir the flour into cold milk, and whisk this into the peas to thicken it slightly. Add salt and a little sugar to taste. It will thicken more as it stands.
If you have leftover pinnekjøtt, potatoes etc, this makes just amazing shepherds pie the next day.
Dessert was these NYT Lemon Bars With Olive Oil and Sea Salt. Highly recommended! Quite easy to make, a shortbread base with homemade lemon curd.