Kokosmakroner and Christmas in Norway

julekrans Yes, we had a Norwegian Christmas! Almost everyone in the family had been sick or was getting sick with coughs and colds, so I was lucky not to get ill until the very end. I have just been ill ever since (cold, bad cold, bronchitis, then really bad bronchitis) with too much travelling (Accra-Norway-Accra-Rome-Accra) so finally I can catch up a bit. Norway was lovely: hardly any snow over the holidays, but lots of family and Christmas spirit. Back to the family farm to stay with my parents, which is no longer something I take for granted. We are all getting older, but they are still in good shape, fortunately. My mother has been fighting breast cancer again, but this time it seems to have gone better.

pyntet juletre

We decorated the tree with old tinsel, Norwegian flags and familiar old ornaments from all over the world (I can see a German wooden house and a star from Kampala there), and enjoyed the peace before the youngest generation arrived. Of course, the julenek had to be put up for the birds (a sheaf of oats for Christmas), despite the lack of snow.

julenek We waited for the hurricane Urd to hit the west coast, but hardly noticed it in the east. We ate clementines, walked in the woods, made Norwegian paper stars and just enjoyed being home with parents, siblings and their spouses, and the increasing horde of nieces and nephews, who are all very sweet. It was great. The ten days went so quickly!

Norwegian paper starAnd we baked. Traditionally there should be seven kinds of cookies for Christmas, if you are Norwegian. But we eat less cookies now (not the grandchildren, they hoover down any cookies around), and had plenty of cake, but some cookie making must be done. As my father is diabetic and, we made almond macaroons for him with artificial sweeter (not bad), and coconut macaroons for the rest of us, along with some other varieties This is from “Kaker som smaker”, a classic baking book, and as you see, the recipe can vary quite a bit. Egg whites only, or whole eggs; potato flour or wheat flour, or no flour. Butter? I never used butter in mine. But maybe it works?


Kokosmakroner (coconut macaroons with whole eggs)

3 eggs
200 ml white granulated sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla sugar
5 tbs all-purpose wheat flour
600 ml flaked coconut

Whisk eggs and sugar light and airy, quite stiff. Sift in flour, baking powder and vanilla sugar (the latter is Norwegian, can be skipped or maybe add a very small splash of vanilla extract). Stir in the flaked coconut carefully, you do not want to lose the air whisked in. We had large fresh eggs from our neighbour’s farm,  so I added more coconut than the recipe specified as as the cookie batter was very runny. You might want to do a test cookie as well, the cookie should hold its shape when dropped on cookie sheet with teaspoons. With smaller eggs or drier coconut, you might need less. Bake 10-12 minutes at 180 C, in the middle of the oven, until they are lightly golden but not too dry. Store in air-tight box, keeps for ages.  If you have any left after the holidays, old kokosmakroner are nice in apple crumble too.

kokosmakronerYes, Santa came and left gifts…….. and the rice porridge left in the barn for him was eaten up.

julenisse fotspor


Picking tyttebær in Norway, 2014

Wet birch leavesIn Norway for summer holidays. Time for a family trip to the cabin. It is almost September, and the birch tree leaves are beginning to fade.

Springe over myraAfter all the rain here, the bog was quite wet, but the nieces jumped their way through. We have buckets for berries, thermoses with coffee, packed lunches and are harbouring hope that the rain will hold off for a couple hours. This is a large forest that stretches over to Sweden, with lots of elg (moose) and the odd passing wolf, we hear. Just bring nieces, they are lively enough to petrify any wildlife nearby. imageFinally, the cabin appearing between the trees. It is an old fashioned cabin, with no running water (except in the stream down the hill) and an outhouse. They have installed a solar panel now, to run the coffee maker, but the old mattresses are a bit mice-ridden, so we just came for the day.
Old gamesNothing says cabin life like old board games!
TreOr old wooden containers (mouse proof).

TyttebærBut we were here to pick tyttebær, lingonberries, which carpeted stretches of the forest floor. Very low-growing, and abundant this year. Easy to see with the bright red berries against all the green. These are mainly used as a tart jam with savoury dishes, but are also delicious in spice cakes or bread.
BærplukkerSame berry pickers were used as for blueberries, though as you can see the plants are somewhat different. Lots of bending over to pick, you really feel it the next day (at least we soft city-living people did……) It is very satisfying though, to be out in the woods picking berries in the quiet spaces between trees and streams.
UthusThe rain came, so we retreated inside and to the veranda to enjoy our packed lunches and thermos flasks of coffee. Very nice! Here, a view of the outhouse.
Wet stepsSteps in the rain. We hiked back to the car, the rain cleared up and it was a really nice day out.<

Picked berriesWhat was picked, between the those of us who picked. (The others were busy dragging a water-logged boat out of the lake.) It is a good year for tyttebær this year, so this is not a bad haul for a few hours out. Maybe a little early, but for fresh jam (berries just crushed,  with a little sugar stirred in) these will be just fine.

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!