24 November 2010

Rømmevafler (Sour Cream Waffles) – Recipe

Little Miss Nibbler (age four years and one week) is learning about hibernation in her kindergarten at the moment. I arrive home to her regaling me with vague tales of slumbering bears and snoozing hedgehogs. I listen patiently, as I've learnt to do, but occasionally my mind wanders, to be filled with fantastical thoughts of spending the winter cocooned under my duvet in a reduced metabolic state. In preparation for this self-imposed lethargy, the body must prepare itself with calories. Lots of calories! Not that I really need the extra insulation, but there is one dish that would fit the bill perfectly: rømmevafler, or Norwegian sour cream waffles. Short of mainlining butter I can't think of a more efficient calorie delivery system, and as a pleasant side effect these waffles are utterly delicious.

Waffles can be found all over Norway and they are eaten like they're going out of fashion, typically as an afternoon treat. There are quite a few different recipes out there, but the two main types are those made with and without sour cream, some even add a touch of cardamom to the batter. Unlike their distant American relative, these waffles are relatively thin (about ⅓-inch thick) and are typically made in waffle irons that produce heart-shaped segments with shallow indentations. However, the real difference is in the batter. Norwegian waffles are richer and slightly denser – all the better for filling you up after a hard day's walking or skiing in the mountains – and sour cream waffles in particular are rib-stickingly good.

Norwegian waffles are typically eaten with brunost (Norwegian brown cheese) or jam, the latter possibly accompanied by some extra sour cream, if what's in the waffles isn't already enough for you. In the photo above you'll see a fork and a knife, however true Norwegians eat their waffles with their hands. You just tear off a segment and fold it in two so the filling doesn't fall out.

I've mentioned before that most of the baking in our household is done by Mrs. Nibbler, and as a true Norwegian she is almost obsessive about baked goods. This version of rømmevafler comes from Mrs. Nibbler's magic book of family recipes, but it's a fairly standard one. These should really be made with Norwegian sour cream (seterrømme), which is quite thick, almost like crème fraîche. But if you can't get hold of some then I've included another equally delicious waffle recipe. Be warned though; one waffle is never enough, but two will leave you in a food-induced coma on the sofa.
Rømmevafler – Ingredients (makes a few waffles)
  • 500 ml seterrømme (thick Norwegian sour cream, 35% fat)
  • 300 ml plain flour
  • 150 ml water
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
Regular Waffles – Ingredients
  • 500 ml buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 150 g plain flour
  • 50 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
Method (for both varieties)
  1. Whisk all the ingredients together until you get a smooth batter and leave to rest for 10 minutes
  2. Heat up a waffle iron
  3. Lightly brush the waffle iron with butter
  4. Using a ladle pour the batter into the waffle iron and leave for 2-3 minutes until they are cooked
  5. Remove waffle and eat with dollops of strawberry jam, brown cheese, or even maple syrup!
So there you go. If you're after something warm and sweet and cosseting, perhaps after a day spent outdoors, or indeed if you are planning on going into hibernation, then why not give these waffles a try. You won't be disappointed.

19 November 2010

Yauatcha, London – Review

Travelling back to London will always be like coming home for me. I lived in Britain's capital for 15 years, and during those years the city has witnessed me progress from spotty young university fresher, to meeting most of my friends, getting my first job, marrying my love, and to seeing the birth of my first daughter. So it's unsurprising that I have grown to adore the city. Of course, the bittersweet irony is that it's only when I chose to leave the place that I realised what a magnificent city it truly is. Maybe distance has made me sprout a pair of rose-coloured spectacles, but forget the relative trivialities of tube strikes, congestion charges, and Daily Mail-esque warnings of "broken Britain, innit" – at its heart London is a vibrant, cosmopolitan metropolis, throbbing with pace, energy, wit and charm. Yes, it is noisy and crowded, and sometimes downright nasty, but it affords an adopted Brit like me a myriad of freedoms and a number of small daily joys.

One of the many small joys I miss is Sunday dim sum. Whether it's the morning after the night before, a family get-together, brunch with friends, or some well-deserved time alone, nothing can soothe the soul and satisfy the stomach quite like good dim sum on a Sunday. So when Mrs. Nibbler and I were in London to celebrate a friend's birthday recently, we got the chance to indulge again in a favourite Sunday pastime and headed off to Yauatcha for some restorative yum cha.

Yauatcha has been going since 2004 and was founded by legendary restaurateur Alan Yau. It is currently one of three Michelin-starred Chinese restaurants in London. The famous red guide isn't the ultimate arbiter of quality, in my experience, but it is generally the most consistent indicator of a restaurant's calibre. However, I find that once Michelin strays from its comfort zone of 'modern European/French' food, their ratings retain less significance. So I was genuinely curious to see how Yauatcha stacked up against my dim sum experience at the excellent non-starred Pearl Liang a couple of days earlier (see review here).

Yauatcha is designed as a modern take on an old Chinese teahouse. We were seated in the ground floor dining room whose interior was quite minimal and light, with clean lines of glass, wood, and concrete dominating. There is also a darker and moodier subterranean bar and dining area. The menu here blends tradition with modernity quite well, and the focus is on dim sum dishes and other smaller plates, although more substantial main courses are available too.

We started with baked venison puffs (£4.50), a twist on the more traditional char siu (barbeque pork) puffs. Pieces of tender, sweet venison were encased in flaky, buttery pastry. These were sooo moreish – a fantastic start to the meal.
Next, some scallop shu mai (£7.50) and char siu buns (£3.50). The shu mai consisted of open-topped dumplings filled with moist prawns and shredded carrot, topped by a thick slice of sweet scallop. The whole thing was crowned with glistening roe.
The classic barbecue pork buns seemed lighter than those I had experienced before and were all the better for it. Both dishes were a delight.
This was followed by pan-fried turnip cake (£5.50), which I discovered is not made from turnip at all, and instead features daikon as the main ingredient. The turnip cake had a thin layer of egg and chives on one side, which lent it an extra richness. I could never tire of turnip cake such as this.
Next were some wild mushroom dumplings (£4.80). A vibrant green wrapper contained a moist mixture of oyster, shimeji and shiitake mushrooms. The filling packed an umami-rich hit of woody mushroom. It was OK, but nothing special. Each dumpling was decoratively studded with pearls of qian shi (fox nuts) – a first for me; their taste was rather neutral, so they were maybe there just for texture, although in Chinese medicine they are considered good for the kidneys.
Our kidneys suitably cleansed, we dived into some excellent prawn cheung fun (£5.80) and shanghai dumplings (£3.50). As at Pearl Liang, the waiter poured some sweet soya sauce over the cheung fung, the wobbly rice noodle rolls packed to the rafters with succulent prawns. The shanghai dumplings were a bit of a disappointment, however, as I was expecting these to be the soup-filled, steamed kind. Instead we got the grilled variety of pork-filled dumplings. They were fine, just not what I was expecting.
Finally, to finish, one of the highlights of the meal: plump and bouncy har gau (£5.00) dumplings. Each dumpling was made with beautifully pleated, translucent wrappers filled with oh-so-perfectly cooked prawns. They were just heavenly!
Throughout the meal we sipped from elegant cups of silver needle white tea from Fujian Province, which was beautifully mild and refreshing with a vague sweetness to it. The total bill, including service came to £53, which was not as much as I had expected it to be. I really enjoyed lunch at Yauatcha; there's something very cosseting and slightly decadent about going there for Sunday dim sum. However, judged on the food alone, I'd have to give the edge to Pearl Liang – the quality and sheer value for money of their dim sum is, I believe, unrivalled in London. But if you're looking for a touch of healing luxury when you're feeling bleary-eyed on a Sunday, then you can't go wrong with a spot of yum cha at Yauatcha to leave you feeling sated, happy, and ready to face the world again.

Food:        8 / 10
Service:     7 / 10
Ambiance: 8 / 10

15-17 Broadwick Street
London W1F 0DL
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7494 8888

Yauatcha on Urbanspoon
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16 November 2010

Polpetto, London – Review

Which came first, the restaurant or the PR campaign? An odd but pertinent question in today's socially networked times. In the case of Russell Norman, the Twitterverse was alive with his 140-characters-or-less chatter in the run up to last year's grand opening of his first solo restaurant project, Polpo. What started as simple tweets about the ongoing development of a restaurant gradually grew, and a sizeable band of eager followers soon ensued. Unsurprisingly, Polpo opened to a flood of acclaim from critics and rapidly became a darling of the blogosphere. Polpetto is Polpo's younger (more attractive?) sister that Norman opened this summer, also to much blog-fuelled acclaim. So when I was in London recently I wanted to see what all the fuss was about for myself.

Polpetto is located above the legendary bohemian French House pub in London's Soho. I wasn't actually sure I'd come to the right place at first, but then a glance upwards revealed a sign bearing an image of an octopus and the restaurant's name in small, neat script. I guess this must be it then. We entered the unmarked door and proceeded up the narrow staircase to the dining room, which was as small as it was charming, seating just 28 covers. Exposed brickwork and unadorned light bulbs hanging from the ceiling give the place a relaxed, urban feel to it, which is softened by flashes of wood and a large plushly upholstered banquette at one end of the room. The overall atmosphere of the place is very warm and intimate – a wonderfully cosy place to while away a couple of hours over lunch.

Like its elder sibling, Polpetto is loosely based on the bàcari of Venice, where small plates of tapas-like chiccetti are washed down with glasses of spritzer or wine. The menu here features a number of tempting dishes, small and large, that are just begging to be shared.

We started with a couple of small dishes of polpetti (£3.00) and melanzane parmigiana (£2.00). The polpetti – baby octopuses – were served whole and had been marinated in olive oil and vinegar laced with flecks of red chilli – they had a lovely chewy bite to them while still being quite tender. We didn't realise that the melanzane is served as an individual piece so we only ordered one of these, and as a result the solitary wrap of aubergine looked a tad lonely on the plate. It was, however, delicious.

This was followed by some simple, but good, grilled focaccia (£2.50) drizzled generously with olive oil. Alongside this were prawns cooked in chilli and garlic (£6.50). The prawns were accurately cooked and the sauce they came in was pleasantly spiced, without being too overpowering. I particularly liked the small cherry tomatoes in the sauce that were just bursting with flavour. Needless to say, every last drop of the sauce was mopped up with the bread.

Next were some polpette (£6.00), dense meatballs of pork spiked with fennel seeds that were served in a simple, but punchy tomato sauce. This was accompanied by one of the single best things I have eaten this year – zucchini fries (£4.50). Thin batons of courgette had been battered and fried to an ethereally light crispness. There was hardly any trace of oiliness, just a satisfyingly crunchy crust that gave way to a powder soft interior. Just amazing. We greedily mopped up the sauce from the polpette with forkfuls of the fries and chortled with pleasure.

Osso Buco is one of my all-time favourite dishes and at just £8.50, Polpetto's version is somewhat of a bargain. Supremely tender veal shank sat atop a pile of velvety saffron risotto; the veal having that melt-in-the-mouth quality that only long, slow cooking can achieve. The crowning glory was a centrepiece of rich, wobbly marrow to be scooped out greedily and spread across the meat. If you're not full by now, then this dish will finish you off for sure.

However, dessert is my Achilles heel, and I couldn't resist ordering a pannacotta (£6.00) to share. The soft, vanilla folds of the pannacotta were cut by the spiced fruitiness of lightly stewed plums. It was a delicious way to end the meal.

The total bill came to £58 including wine and service, which was efficient and pleasantly informal. Although I understand the reasons for it, I'm not a big fan of some restaurants' policy of not taking bookings, and Polpetto doesn't take dinner reservations. I don't know about you, but I like the certainty that reserving a table gives you. We all lead such hectic lives these days, and if I've planned to eat somewhere at a certain time I'd like to know that it will happen, without me having to wait an inordinate amount of time for a table that may or may not materialise. I was there at lunchtime, when they do take reservations, so for me that's definitely the way to go.

I really, really adored Polpetto. It has charm and energy in spades, and the food was divine. Often, a restaurant never lives up to this amount of pre-opening hyperbole. But in the case of Polpetto I'm pleased to say it exceeded all my expectations. OK, the food might not be the most refined in London, but it is honest, no fuss cooking served in such congenial surroundings. Polpetto is a breath of fresh air in the capital's already eclectic dining scene and I can't wait to come back for more.

Food:          8 / 10
Service:       8 / 10
Ambiance:   9 / 10

Upstairs at The French House
49 Dean Street
London W1D 5BG
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 1969

Polpetto on Urbanspoon

12 November 2010

The Ledbury, London – Review

Earlier this year, I enjoyed a monumentally good dinner at The Square, Philip Howard and Nigel Platts-Martin's double Michelin-starred powerhouse of a restaurant. It was before I began to blog about this sort of thing, but so exquisite was the meal I enjoyed there that night – their lasagne of Dorset crab is truly one of the wonders of this world – that I still have a copy of the menu on my bedside table to remember the evening by (I know, I know, I should really see someone about that). Ever since that meal I have been longing to visit The Square's sister restaurant, The Ledbury. And on a blustery, torrentially wet Friday night recently, I finally got the chance.

The chef behind The Ledbury is Brett Graham, an Aussie and Philip Howard protégé, who in 2005 was tasked by the Howard/Platts-Martin team of running their newest venture. Their faith in the young chef paid off in spades, and The Ledbury achieved the rare accolade of gaining its first Michelin just one year after opening. Since then, the restaurant has quietly gone from strength to strength winning a multitude of plaudits and awards, and the blogosphere seems to be packed with universally gushing reviews. The Ledbury's stock has continued to rise, and earlier this year the restaurant went on to gain a much-deserved second Michelin star – all this before Graham's 31st birthday.

The Ledbury is located on a quiet residential corner in London's Notting Hill. The high ceilings and the intelligent use of mirrors belie the dining room's relatively small size and it never feels anything less than spacious. The heavy dark drapes and chandeliers may be just a touch dated but I think the term 'classically elegant' describes the interior better. Mrs. Nibbler and I both opted for the 8-course tasting menu with matching wines which, although not cheap at £130 per person, represents reasonable value for this sort of thing (a similar meal at elder sibling, The Square, will set you back £175).

We started with a canapé of creamy foie gras parfait encased in a wafer thin pastry crust. The rich, but lightly textured foie gras was balanced with a hint of ginger, and I was sure I could detect the faint suggestion of curry powder. It was a wonderful opening salvo.

We were offered bread next. I'm not usually a fan of bread baskets, as all too often they just fill you up with unnecessary stodge, but as soon as I got a whiff of the bacon & onion brioche that was being offered I knew I had to try some. The warm, moist roll full of sweet caramelised onion and intensely savoury pieces of bacon was a revelation. Mrs. Nibbler opted for some chestnut bread, and it too was delicious, redolent of autumnal forests.

An amuse bouche of deep-fried quail's egg, chestnut purée, and black truffle was next. The quail's egg was cooked to perfection. I pierced it with a knife causing the unctuous yolk to ooze out and mix satisfyingly with the chestnut purée. This softness was offset by a galette made from shards of crispy potato, and the black truffle shavings added a heady scent of luxury.

The first course in earnest was a ceviche of thinly sliced scallops with seaweed and herb oil, kohlrabi, and frozen horseradish. This was an intriguing dish; an unusual combination of flavours that worked beautifully together. The sweet scallops were supremely fresh and vibrant, and their soft flesh contrasted with the cool, crisp slivers of kohlrabi. I loved the way the frozen horseradish 'snow' gradually melted to create a sort of sauce, although if I was being picky it perhaps detracted a teeny tiny bit from the taste of the scallops (I tend to like my seafood simple, and to let the freshness do the talking). This course was perfectly matched with a glass of briny sherry.

If there is such a thing as a signature dish at The Ledbury, then our next dish was definitely it. Flame grilled mackerel with cucumber, Celtic mustard and shiso. Mackerel can be a tricky fish to tame – its oily fishiness is always in danger of overwhelming the taste buds. Here the fish was cooked to perfection; the core of it was soft, almost sashimi like, while the skin magically retained a smokey crispness. Accompanying this was a little parcel of smoked eel wrapped in a translucent film of cucumber jelly. A lightly pickled cucumber and delicate leaves of shiso and coriander cress added the needed acidity. I was lost for words at how good this dish was – one of the real highlights of the meal. Magnificent!

Next we had root vegetables baked in salt and clay with Lardo di Colonnata, roasting juices, and hazelnuts. Nuggets of celeriac, beetroot, white carrot, Chinese artichoke, and parsnip had been baked to perfection, emitting that heavy scent of the earth, while the lardo (cured pork fat) added some slippery fattiness to the dish. Again, another superlative dish.

The fish course was next and this was roast monkfish with truffle purée, shavings of truffle, cauliflower, parmesan gnocchi and sea vegetables. I have also seen this dish served with turbot and it is another classic at The Ledbury. I always tend to overlook monkfish. Although delicious it can sometimes seem like just a dense mass of white protein. In this dish it was accurately cooked and perfectly fine, but the real stars of this course were the accompaniments. Light and chewy parmesan gnocchi, a tiny crisp romanesco cauliflower, salty sea purslane, and more glorious truffles, puréed and grated (is it ever possible to have too much truffle?).

Brett Graham is an avid game fan and it tends to be a feature of The Ledbury menu. In fact, on the night we visited we were told he was away on a shoot in Scotland. The main meat course was poached and roasted partridge served with white carrots, beautiful blobs of sweet Pedro Ximénez sauce, and toasted grains.

We were then served a pre-dessert of passion fruit jelly with sauterne mousse. This served as perfect palate cleanser – the tart, refreshing jelly made my mouth water and lips pucker up, while the soft, sweet vanilla-infused mousse reminded us that it's time for dessert proper. I could happily have eaten a few of these.

The main dessert was a velvety rich crème caramel, its sweet egginess offset by some apricot confit, orange sorbet and jasmine ice cream. It was cleverly paired with a dessert wine from Italy (I forget which) that had a beautiful and fragrant taste of marmalade. What a wonderful way to end the meal.

The culinary theatrics didn't quite stop there though, and along with the coffee we were served heavenly petit fours of macaroons, jellies, meringues and chocolates, presented rather elegantly on some crushed cocoa shells.

The quality of the service at The Ledbury is just phenomenal. The waitstaff here are almost all Australian, which seems to lend a pleasant, informal tone to the service. The restaurant has that warm and wonderful atmosphere generated by people enjoying sublime food in beautiful surroundings. I even spotted some fellow food bloggers (Gourmet Chick, Vintage Macaroon, Claire Scott, Greedy Diva, and Catty) looking very elegant as they enjoyed dinner at the neighbouring table.

What Brett Graham has achieved with this restaurant is nothing short of remarkable. But what is truly astonishing is that given his young age, you expect the path of his cooking to lead to even greater things. The real test of the quality, though, of any restaurant is whether you desire to return, and in The Ledbury I see a restaurant that I want to come back to time and time and time again.

Food:        9 / 10
Service:     9 / 10
Ambiance: 9 / 10

The Ledbury
127 Ledbury Road
London, W11 2AQ
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7792 9090

The Ledbury on Urbanspoon
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10 November 2010

Pearl Liang, London - Review

We had just touched down at Heathrow and the hunger pangs that started at check-in in Oslo were now becoming an incessant, gnawing irritation. Must. Find. Food. On the Heathrow Express all thoughts of first dropping off the luggage at the apartment rapidly vanished. Must. Find. Food. Now! A few clicks on my phone and a quick scan of the interweb revealed a well-regarded Chinese restaurant close to Paddington station. Did they have a table for two available in 15 minutes?

So that is how Mrs. Nibbler and I arrived, luggage and all, at Pearl Liang, located in what estate agents euphemistically call 'Paddington Central' – a newish development of shops, offices and flats in what used to be a triangle of no-man's land, bounded by the railway line, Bishop's Bridge Road and the A40 flyover. Not the most obvious place to find exquisite dim sum, but find it we did.

Pearl Liang opened in 2007 and is owned by Humphrey Lee and Paul Ngo, the former manager and head-chef team of the acclaimed Mandarin Kitchen in nearby Bayswater. Together they have created a real gem of a Chinese (Cantonese) restaurant. For what it's worth, Pearl Liang was recently voted Britain's favourite Chinese restaurant in Tsingtao's third annual Legacy of Taste competition, ahead of over 500 other contenders.

We arrived at the tail end of a busy lunch service and the tables seemed to be packed with office workers finishing off plates of vibrant looking Cantonese food. The interior was an odd mix of glamour and corporate blandness – think of Hakkasan in a Holiday Inn Express and you'll get the idea. But by this point we were too hungry to notice, and almost before we were even seated we started rattling off our order from the extensive dim sum menu. I'm by no means an expert on yum cha, so I played it fairly safe and stuck with things I was familiar with. This was hardly the time for experimentation; we had appetites to feed! After a short pause the food started to roll out of the kitchen in double time and we were rewarded with stunningly fresh dim sum. As the first few delicious bites began to appease our ravenous bellies I could start to relax, safe in the knowledge that this would be a good meal.

First to arrive was prawn cheung fun (£3.20) served with a sweet soya sauce that was pored over it tableside. The slippery rice noodle rolls were packed with moist king prawns and the dish was a real delight.
Pan fried turnip cake (£2.70) was crisp on the outside and the soft interior was laced with pieces of pork.
Next, some plump, bouncy har gau dumplings of barely cooked prawns (£3.00), which were delicate and delicious.
King crab and egg white dumpling (£3.20) were fantastic. The rich crab meat was lightened by the egg whites and the whole thing was topped with roe.
Then, my favourite dish of the meal: delicious xiao long bao (£2.80), soup-filled pork dumplings, which burst in your mouth, their scalding hot contents bringing a tear to my eye.
Next, some barbecued pork puffs (£2.70). Triangles of puff pastry slicked with a sweet sauce and filled with jammy and savoury pork.
We also had some pork shu mai (£2.80) but I don't seem to have a picture of it. But these had a good balance between the fatty pork and lighter flavoured prawns. By now we were pleasantly full and so had to skip noodles and dessert.

The whole lunch, including the charge for the brusque, but efficient service, a bottle of Tsingtao beer and water, came to £30, which left Mrs. Nibbler and I giggling like schoolgirls at the seeming absurdity of it. Maybe I've been in Norway for too long, where £30 will probably cover one main course in a semi-decent restaurant in Oslo, but Pearl Liang seemed like an extraordinary bargain to me, and served some of the best dim sum I've had in the capital. Suffice it to say that I think I now have a new favourite dining ritual for when I am fresh off the plane in London.

Food:         8 / 10
Service:      7 / 10
Ambiance:  7 / 10

Pearl Liang
8 Sheldon Square
London, W2 6EZ
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7289 7000

Pearl Liang on Urbanspoon
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8 November 2010

Lapskaus: a Hearty Norwegian Stew - Recipe

At this time of year in Norway comfort foods really come into their own. In the Nibbler kitchen hearty dishes such as unctuous braises, calming casseroles and soothing soups are the order of the day, providing succour against nature’s relentlessly cold and wet onslaught. Perhaps nothing is designed to warm the belly and breathe fire into the soul as well as the Norwegian dish of lapskaus. Not to be confused with its Germanic cousin – labskaus – this stout, no-nonsense Norwegian stew is born of this rugged land and is enjoyed all over the country.

At its heart, lapskaus is a stew of meat and root vegetables. The main types of lapskaus are: lys (light) lapskaus, made with lightly salted pork knuckle; suppelapskaus, which is a thinner, soupier type of stew; and brun (brown) lapskaus, which uses beef and stock or gravy to make a rich, thick stew. Like most stews, though, there are a myriad of variations. Some add onions, garlic, bacon or mushrooms, some like it thin and watery, others so thick you need to cut it with a knife. There isn't really a 'correct' version, but as this was the first time I tried to make it, I wanted to make something as close to 'original' as I could.

I made a brun lapskaus with beef, but lightened it a touch by using fresh chicken stock. You should pick a cut of beef from a part of the animal that has worked for a living. The long, slow cooking will transform the tough cuts into chunks of meltingly tender meat. I used chuck steak, but brisket or flank would also be suitable.

For the root vegetables I used the common earthy ensemble of potatoes, carrots, swede (rutabaga), and parsley root. The edges of the potatoes will gradually dissolve into the stew, making it thicker. I chop the potatoes a bit smaller than the rest of the vegetables to help this process. The idea, though, is not to stir too much during cooking; otherwise the vegetables will just disintegrate.

Lapskaus is best served with lots of flatbrød (flat bread) and sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley – don't leave this out as its flavour here is a fantastic addition and really lifts the dish. And, like most stews, it tastes even better the next day.

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
  • 1.3 kg chuck steak (off the bone and trimmed of excess fat), cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • 6 large carrots, chopped into ¾-inch pieces
  • 300 g parsley roots, chopped into ¾-inch pieces
  • 750 g swede (rutabaga), chopped into ¾-inch pieces
  • 1 kg floury potatoes such as Kerrs Pink or Maris Piper, chopped into ½-inch cubes
  • 1.5 ltr fresh chicken stock
  • 30g butter
  • Freshly chopped parsley to garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Melt the butter in a large casserole pot and brown the meat in batches
  2. Add the chopped vegetables and the browned meat, pour over the stock and add some salt and pepper
  3. Bring to the boil. You may need to skim the stew a couple of times
  4. Cover the casserole with a tight fitting lid and let it simmer gently for 2½ hours, but don't stir too often otherwise the vegetables will turn to mush
  5. After 2½ hours or so the meat should be very tender, check and adjust seasoning if necessary. If the stew is too thick you can always thin it out with more stock or water
  6. Serve in large bowls, sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley and serve with plenty of of flatbrød

3 November 2010

Bergen Fish Soup (Bergensk Fiskesuppe) - Recipe

As I look outside the window these days, all I can see are grey sheets of icy rain. The weather in Oslo at this time of year is truly execrable - the mild days of early autumn are well and truly behind us, yet the beautiful snow of winter is yet to arrive. Instead, we live in this cold, windy, and wet limbo.  It is what I like to call 'soup weather'. There's nothing more comforting on days like these than a big bowl of steaming hot soup. It is the culinary equivalent of a chunky woollen jumper or a roaring log fire. I especially like to make soup on those chilly and wet weekends, when you've barely managed to get out of your pyjamas, and it seems like a major achievement to have emptied the dishwasher.

One of my favourite soups is the famous fish soup from Bergen, on the West Coast of Norway. Although the soup originates from Bergen, it is consumed and loved all over Norway, and it seems that everyone has their own version of it. Think of it as Norway's chicken noodle soup - perfect food for warming the soul.

Bergen fish soup is a velvety mix of cream, fish, and root vegetables that is lifted with a touch of sugar and vinegar. The trick with this soup is to taste as you go along to get the right balance of sweetness and sourness. Everyone will have different preferences, so feel free to experiment, but there should be just a subtle sweet-and-sour taste to it. The ultimate quality of the soup, though, is totally reliant on you using really good quality fish stock (preferably homemade from fish trimmings) and impeccably fresh fish - it doesn't really matter what type you use as long as it's not too oily; I think a mix of cod, salmon, halibut, and monkfish works best. Although not strictly traditional, and I haven't here, you could also add a few mussels to the pot 3-4 minutes before the soup has finished cooking. Another little optional extra is to add fish dumplings. Here, I made my own dumplings, but in Norway most fishmongers make their own excellent fiskepudding that you could use instead.

So, why not try making this simple soup - the very essence of the sea - which warms and soothes during these damp, chilly days.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
  • 2 ltrs good quality fish stock
  • 2 carrots, diced into ½-inch cubes
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 small celeriac, diced into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 parsley root (or parsnip), diced into ½-inch cubes
  • 125g cod fillet (skin and bones removed) cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 125g halibut (skin and bones removed) cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 125g salmon (skin and bones removed) cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 125g monkfish tail cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 125g fiskepudding (or homemade fish dumplings. Optional, but see below for recipe)
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 300ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp good quality red wine vinegar (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp sugar (to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • A handful of chopped chives to garnish
  1. Bring the fish stock to boil in a large pot
  2. Add the chopped vegetables and simmer for 5 minutes
  3. Whisk the flour into the cream and add to the soup, and bring to the boil
  4. Add the sugar and the vinegar gradually and taste to get the right balance between sweet and sour
  5. Add the fish and fiskepudding/dumplings and simmer until the fish is just cooked (around 6-7 minutes)
  6. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground white pepper and sprinkle with some finely chopped chives
  7. Serve with lots of crusty white bread to dunk in the soup
For the fish dumplings (optional)
  • 125g cod fillet (skin and bones removed)
  • 1 small egg
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
Blitz all the ingredients in a food processer so that it forms a smooth paste then, using a spoon, form the mixture into small balls and add to the soup just after adding the fish - they should float gently on the surface of the soup.