Preparing ertestuing (mushy peas) and pinnekjøtt

Pinnekjoett

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.

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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.

Peas

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.

imageHelp in last-minute icing sugar sifting from the youngest guest.
Lemon bars

Making braised onion sauce for gnocchi

imageI saw Braised Onion Sauce on Food52 last week, and bookmarked it to try. Slow-braised golden onions with butter and Madeira, served on pasta sounded just amazing! It is adapted from James Beard’s “Beard on Pasta”. So when my husband emailed today to say he had gone wild and bought two euros worth of fresh gnocchi at our pasta all’uova shop, asking if that would work with the onion sauce, I thought this was a brilliant suggestion. I bought a pile of onions, and came home to find the flat fragrant with onions already chopped and braising in our kitchen, thanks to my lovely husband.

Gnocchi

Thursdays is gnocchi day in Rome, and these gnocchi are very good: soft, pillowy, and light. Our neighbour raves about the gnocchi from downstairs; he only gets to eat it when his wife is out (yes, there are low-carb followers even in Rome, implausible as that may seem). Our palazzo is now worried as there are rumours the pasta-makers downstairs may retire soon, and the nephew will take over. But will he have the same superb touch as Maurizio? Who knows? We had better enjoy his gnocchi and fresh pasta while we can.

Making golden braised onion sauce for gnocchi for two
Inspired by Braised Onion Sauce on Food52

5 tbs butter
350 grammes yellow and white onions, halved and sliced
1 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
Splash of Marsala
400 grammes gnocchi
Grated Parmesan, for serving

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See detailed instructions on Food52. Cooking the onions in butter does take an hour, at least, but it smells just amazing while slowly caramelizing. They should be darkly golden, we should really have waited longer but we were hungry…… When onions are darkly golden, or just medium golden as here, add a splash of Marsala to the onions (original says Madeira, but we only have Marsala in the house). Boil the gnocchi in a separate pan. When they float up, they are done – it takes no time at all. Now, toss the gnocchi in the pan with the onions. Serve with grated parmesan. Served two, with no leftovers.

It is buttery, rich, full of golden flavour: really lovely. It takes time, but was easy enough, and was nicely frugal for the January budget. I would make it again, definitely.  It is nice getting back into the swing of cooking!

An impromptu pineapple cake

Pineapple cake
After the holidays, it is lovely to be home again, though the working week is very long…… While thinking of future trips, I have gone through the kitchen cupboards and compiled The Basket of Doom: various packets and items and tins that really need to be used up. Mystery spices, some tamarind, a papaya salad dressing packet, some slightly stale IKEA dry fried onions, a tin of cod roe, some long-hoarded curry sauces: items hard to find here that I save longer than I should. So twice a year, The Basket of Doom is assembled and sits on the counter as a challenge of what we can cook from it in the next four weeks.

Tonight’s dinner was sweet and sour pork, with pineapple and bellpeppers, thanks to a slightly expired ready-made sweet and sour sauce packet in the basket. I came home tonight, hungry and tired after a long wait for the metro and no buses (not a strike, just very slow local transport in Rome and reductions in bus services) and dinner was waiting for me. Very nice! I thought – hmmmmmmm, no need to cook, and maybe there is enough pineapple left for a quick cake? And there was! So this cake was whipped up and in the oven in less than ten minutes.

Impromptu pineapple cake

2 eggs
75 grammes golden caster sugar
100 ml milk
100 grammes melted butter
180 grammes plain flour
2 tsp baking powder

For cake tin:
25 grammes melted butter
75 grammes golden caster sugar
7 pineapple rings

24 cm cake tin
Bake 30 min at 200C.

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Start by melting the butter for the batter, so it is cool enough to add soon. Then whisk eggs and sugar, add milk and melted butter. Whisk in flour and baking powder. That is the cake batter, ready to go.

I popped the cake tin on the still warm hob, and melted the last bit of butter. Sprinkle the second half of the golden sugar on the sugar, then lay out the pineapple rings. Pour the batter over the pineapple rings. Bake 30 minutes at 200C until nicely golden. Invert a serving plate over the hot tin, and turn the cake out upside down. Serve warm.

I confess, we had two pieces each and the rest will be dessert tomorrow!

UPDATE: my January 2015 Basket of Doom. Raspeball mix, alici piccante, mackerel in tomato, those fried onions…..
Basket of Doom