Picking blueberries in Norway, 2014

Norwegian forest I am home in Eastern Norway for summer holidays. Wonderful, after the muggy Roman August heat, to be here with endless stretches of cool green nature and silence. I do love Italy, but I really miss Norwegian nature and all the space. It goes on and on and on, and it is so quiet here! Of course, it was 6C this morning, and a high of 12C, so it is a bit chilly. Perfect for being outdoors though, so we walked up the hill to the woods.

SoppHere, we went for a walk in the “lysløype“, a path through the woods that is illuminated in the winter for skiing, so people can ski after work. In the summer, it is very nice for walking and a spot of berry picking. Also, for collecting mushrooms, IF we had the vaguest idea which ones were edible…..
image ….. Which we do not, so we left the mushrooms where they were. It has been quite rainy, so there are mushrooms springing up all over.
Picking blueberriesDown to business: with more family in to visit, we needed blueberries for dessert. You might remember this contraption from my blueberry picking last year? It is a berry picker, very handy. Older models were made in wood or metal,  but this is my mothers’s modern plastic one for picking wild berries. These are wild blueberries, Vaccinium myrtillus which are technically bilberries in English, but blueberries to us. Quite low growing shrubs. Using the blueberry picker, you comb through from below the plant toward you.
image The berries are caught in the tines and come off, the leaves pull through unharmed, and the berries collect in the base of the berry picker (bærplukker: see, Norwegian is not a difficult language!)
image More mushrooms, which I have no idea what are, but they do have lovely colours!
imageNot bad, for a brief spell of picking, between my mother and me. The red ones are tyttebær (lingonberries, Vaccinium vitis-idaea), which we also found. Apparently there are lots near the family cabin, so there will be a daytrip there soon for some serious picking.

Sorting and cleaning blueberriesSo, you have your small bucket of blåbær og tyttebær (blueberries and lingonberries), and now it is time to sort and clean them, which you do with a tray like this. Shake it, and small leaves and twigs fall through. Pick out the lingonberries, and voila! You have berries ready for jam or dessert, like this.
Blåbær og tyttebærThe lingonberries are very tart, but are great as a freshly made jam served with meat at dinner. They are quite robust, so I will pick some more to take back to Rome. IKEA there has lingonberry jam, but that is quite sweet and this is so much better.

Blåbær med vaniljesaus And the blueberries? Some were frozen, but most ended up as dessert, with shop-bought vanijesaus. It is a vanilla custard sauce, served cold, and this is a delicious summer dessert.

It is really nice to be home in Norway for some days: family, friends, Norwegian newspapers on paper and not just online, lots of good wholewheat bread and decent boiled potatoes, cool crisp weather and fresh plums just ripening on the tree. Not to mention the endless cups of filter coffee, and offers of cakes or waffles. That is the mainstay of my English husband’s spoken Norwegian, which I call his survival Norwegian. That much he has learned is essential, as we get through a lot of coffee visits while on holidays here. Relatives will smile and offer “Mer kaffe? Mer kake?” (More coffee? More cake?)  several times, as that is polite. After a couple cups and a big slab of fresh apple cake, he will smile back and say “Nei takk” (No thank-you)…… unless perhaps they are serving fresh blueberries with vanilla sauce. That is such a taste of summer!

A Roman summer pudding


It was petrifying. Our litlle palazzo (building) was finally lifting the five-year ban on using the gorgeous roof terrace for anything but laundry, and was celebrating this with a condominium rooftop potluck. We had been assigned a secondo and a dolce: second course and dessert. But what cook? Well, as long we brought something foreign (but not too foreign) it should be OK. So I made Moroccan meatballs, and my husband made summer pudding. Berries, fruit, bread: very  English, refreshing and tasty.image We had made summer pudding last year in Norway, very popular. My husband used the BBC Good Food Summer pudding recipe again as a guideline, adapted to what we had. You would need something like this: 1-1.5 kilos mixed berries and fruit of your choice, 100 g sugar, 7-10 slices day-old white bread.

Step one: line a shallow bowl with plastic cling film, so it is easier to turn the pudding out later.

Step two: In a medium pot, add your assorted berries with a little sugar, depending how sweet your berries are. 100g was plenty for us. Strawberries and raspberries would often be used. We used frozen blueberries, frozen white currants, and a couple finely chopped apples to bulk it up a bit. You need enough to fill the bread-lined bowl. Cook the berries and fruit for a few minutes until the juices start releasing. Strain the fruit to catch the fruit juices, you will need that. In addition, a punnet of fresh strawberries were washed and chopped, but not cooked with the others. 20140613-220435-79475327.jpg

Step three: line the bowl with white bread, with the crusts cut off. Slightly stale works better. As you can see, the bread should be trimmed so it all fits tightly together. This time he dipped the cut bread in the fruit juices, then layered it in the bowl.

20140613-220438-79478451.jpg Step four: ladle over the berries and fruit mixture, into the bread-lined bowl. Add a layer of chopped strawberries as well. 20140613-220440-79480660.jpg Step five: keep filling it up with cooked berries and fruit until it is almost full. Leave a little free space on top. 20140613-220442-79482184.jpg Step six: cover the top of the bowl with a layer of trimmed white bread. Again, make sure it is fitted together well. Cover with plastic cling film. Now, put the bowl on a plate (it might leak) and put this carefully in the fridge, with a small plate on top of the bowl and something heavy on top. A couple milk cartons will do. Leave in fridge for 4-6 hours. As you see, we made two summer puddings, just in case. 20140613-220443-79483765.jpg Step seven: Take the bowl out of the fridge, and peel off the plastic cling film from the top. Now, invert it carefully onto a serving dish. Lift off the bowl, and remove the remaining cling film. You could decorate it with some extra berries if you remember. Impress your neighbours with the exotic English pudding, and give your husband all due credit. 20140613-215508-78908179.jpg

Really lovely evening, gorgeous view and a cool breeze. We stayed up there chatting until past midnight, really nice time with the neighbours.

Banana bread with blueberries

Banana bread with blueberriesI recently made Espresso banana bread, and wanted to tweak the recipe a bit further. I also discovered some blueberries picked last summer in Norway in the freezer and thought – aha! There is nothing like the combination of a rainy day, some sad spotty bananas and the luxury of a small box of blueberries to whip up a quick banana bread. Good thing I did, as friends popped round for tea. And we can look forward to picking blueberries this summer, though right now, with more rain and wind outside (brrrrr…) that does seem a very long time to wait.


Banana bread with blueberries
3 eggs
2 very ripe bananas (about 170 grammes peeled weight)
30 grammes sourdough starter (optional)
60 ml sunflower oil
Pinch of salt
70 grammes golden sugar
160 grammes plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
80 grammes frozen blueberries
Bananas and eggs

See? Those bananas are in desperate need of a makeover to cake.
Preheat oven to 180 °C. Line a medium loaf tin with baking paper.

Mash bananas with a fork, beat in oil, sugar, eggs, sourdough and a pinch of salt. Stir in flour and baking soda. Finally, stir in your frozen blueberries. (The cake batter will be less blue if they are frozen.) Pour batter into tin, bake in the middle of the oven. Mine took 55 minutes baking time or so, until the cake tester came out clean.
Banana bread

Notes: This was delicious freshly baked, and nice with bluberries through the cake. We had visitors, so the cake all vanished the same afternoon. Must remember to not make anything with blueberries when that very active three year old comes over next, I have since been scrubbing the blueberry stain from the sofa… But it was good cake.