Shrimp risotto in Norway

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From a small island in Tuscany to a small island in Norway: Utsira, well known for listeners of the BBC Shipping Forecast. We are here for a family holiday, a nice respite from the heat of Rome with rain and wind and some very nice days. It is a small island, great for birdwatching and with about 200 residents. Lovely trails to walk, though very wet this week.

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Nordvikvågen, the north end where you can see the ferry has arrived. Excellent connections to Haugesund. Lots of tourist information here, in several languages. Utsira has lots of interesting street art as well, and people are very nice. Highly recommended.

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Anyway, we’d had some excellent fresh sjøkreps for lunch, bought at the very well-stocked grocery store in the south end of the island. These are also called scampi, Norway lobster, Dublin Bay prawn or langoustine. We volunteered to make risotto for dinner, using the sjøkreps shells to make stock. My parents wanted some shrimp in as well, so I peeled those and threw the heads in the stock pot as well, with a little celery. It simmered for an hour so, then I sieved it through kitchen roll to get the grit out. Just use fish stock if that is easier (I buy fish stock cubes when I am in Norway).

Shrimp risotto for a rainy day

Knob of butter (I made do with rapeseed oil)
One onion, peeled and finely chopped
Three sticks of celery, finely chopped
One cup of risotto rice (I had brought Vialone Nano)
Half a glass of white wine
One litre of seafood stock, just on the boil
Chopped celery leaves
Chopped chives, a generous handful
A cup of peeled shrimp
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of dried chili

Have two pots ready, one to make the risotto in and one for to keep the stock just on the boil. Melt the butter in pot #2, add onion and celery and cook a couple minutes. Add dry rice and let it toast gently with the onion and celery. Add wine. Keep stirring gently. Now start ladling in the hot stock, one ladle at a time. Once that has been absorbed, add another ladle: keep going for 20-25 minutes. Risotto is not complicated, it just takes patience and attention, and a lot of stirring. Nice to do in a holiday kitchen with the windows getting steamy, rain beating against the window and English football on the radio (for my husband).

You’ll be able to feel the rice getting to the right consistency, not too soft but not al dente either. Add the chopped celery leaves and chives, and when it is almost done stir in the shrimp and taste: does it need salt and pepper? Serve and enjoy.

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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.

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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

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.

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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.