Fårikål

Fårikål

I wrote about this Norwegian dish on my Tumblr a few years ago. Making it last night reminded me how incredibly simple but delicious it is, so I thought I’d republish it here.

The translation of fårikål is “lamb (or mutton) in cabbage” which, to be honest, probably isn’t making you want to try it. However, I urge you to as it’s a very plain dish on the face of it but easy to make and very delicious, wholesome and warming: the ultimate comfort food. It’s traditional to eat it in the autumn in Norway, but there’s no reason at all not to make it in February or any other (winter) month.

I was interested and delighted to read that the recipe Magnus Nilsson gives for this dish in his wonderful The Nordic Cook Book is more or less the same as the one that’s been handed down to me by Norwegian grandmother via my mother.

Here’s what you do.

Take some chunky pieces of lamb on the bone. My mother used to use chump chops, but I’m not sure if this term is used these days.

Take a large white cabbage (or a green one, but my mother always used white so that is what I do too), or a small one if you’re only cooking for a couple of people. Cut it into fairly large wedges.

In a casserole or large saucepan layer the cabbage and the lamb, sprinkle in some salt and fill it half way up with water.

You now need to add black peppercorns and it’s very handy if you have one of these spice infusers (see photo). When I was growing up my mother would bring these back from Norway for all her friends. I’ve never seen them in the shops here but my husband spotted this “Spice Infuser GUSTO” from Gefu online which I’m sure will do the same job. IMG_2009You fill it with whole black peppercorns and place it in among your lamb and cabbage. Then you simply remove it at the end of cooking and diners don’t have to bite into peppercorns, which can a)  give them a fright or b) break their teeth. It’s also not very pleasant. Of course if you haven’t got one you can tie the peppercorns (about a tablespoonful) in a muslin bag or indeed live dangerously and leave them loose in your stew.

 

Bring the whole thing to the boil on the boiling plate and then place it, covered, in the simmering oven for a minimum of two hours but preferably longer until the lamb and cabbage are tender.

Some like to thicken their fårikål by dusting the raw lamb pieces with flour, but I have never done this and don’t think it’s necessary.

Serve with plain boiled potatoes and plenty (and I mean a lot) of chopped parsley.

 

 

Spiced Apple Cake

Spiced Apple Cake

My plan for today was to tell you about the most delicious veal ragù I’d made but I’m afraid it was disappointing and I can’t quite work out what went wrong. I guess you win some and you lose some. I won’t give up though and when I get it right, I will let you know. Meanwhile, there’s my trusty old favourite ragù which I wrote about here.

So instead I want to tell you about an apple cake recipe I’ve recently fallen in love with. Forgive me for giving you another apple cake recipe but this one is too good to ignore. You probably aren’t surprised though, because I believe I’ve mentioned in previous posts how much I love apple cake.

There’s something about the slightly caramel flavour of this one that reminds me of the plum torte I wrote about here; the soft brown sugar is probably responsible. I came across the recipe on the Spectator website.

Spiced Apple Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 large cooking apple
  • 1 eating apple
  • 200g unsalted butter, melted (by placing it in a bowl on top of the Aga at the back) fullsizeoutput_317d
  • 225g light brown sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar

 

 

 

Method

(Pre-heat conventional oven to 160ºC)

  • Lightly grease and line a 9″/23cm cake tin with bake-o-glide
  • Place the brown sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl and rub between your fingers to get rid of any lumps in the sugar
  • Briefly whisk the eggs in a small bowl using a fork and then add them and the melted butter to the dry ingredients, quickly mixing the whole lot together with a spatula
  • Peel and core the apples and cut each into 12 wedges
  • Pour three quarters of the mixture into your prepared tin and arrange the apple slices in a circle, alternating cooking and eating apples and starting from the outside. Place any spare segments in the centre of the circle
  • Spoon the rest of the mixture into the middle of the cake and don’t try to spread it to the sides. Sprinkle over the caster sugar
  • Bake in the baking oven, or whichever oven you use for cakes, for about 50 minutes until the top is golden brown and taught. Leave in the tin to cool for 10 minutes

Can be served warm or cold. I love serving any apple cake with whipped cream, but it’s up to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Chickpea Stew

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Chickpea Stew

I’ve been enjoying January so far. After the pressures of December, taking life at a slower pace is fine by me. I don’t mind the weather either, as long as my house is warm, and when I’m outdoors, being half-Norwegian I know that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. I relish the changes of seasons that we have in this country. Last weekend we went to stay with friends in the Scottish Borders. We were only away three days but it felt longer and was a lovely break. It was grey and cold but we had packed waterproofs and lots of layers and strode out across the beautiful countryside.

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Without having to sacrifice my desire for comfort food during this long, cold month I have more or less stuck to my plan not to cook meat during the week. There was a blip last Monday when I made a chicken pie because I wanted to use up the remains of the roast chicken we’d had the day before. First I made stock with the carcass, and then made the pie filling using some mushrooms, bacon and thyme and of course the chicken and stock. I took Nigella’s advice and added a tablespoon of Marsala too: delicious. I topped the pie with some good quality shop-bought puff pastry. The rest of the time we’ve been eating dals and rice, pasta with tomato-based sauces and vegetable curries.

This week I made a stew with some squash, sweet potato and chickpeas and that’s the recipe I’m going to give you in this post. It’s ridiculously easy to make* and can be adapted to whatever you have in your kitchen. It’s basically an Angela Hartnett recipe which was in her Sunday Telegraph column last weekend, the theme being one-pot meals. She used pumpkin but said it would work with any root vegetables and/or gourds. She accompanied it with toasted pitta bread; I served ours with rice.

*Angela instructs us to throw everything into the pot at the same time, even the onion, but the onion didn’t soften to my satisfaction (I had a feeling it wouldn’t) even though I cooked my stew for longer than the prescribed 30-35 minutes, so I’m suggesting softening the onion in a little olive oil before adding all the other ingredients.

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Chickpea Stew

(Serves 3-4)

  • About 350g diced butternut squash and sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 x 400g tin chickpeas in water
  • 1 x 400g tin cherry tomatoes, including the juice
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • ¼ tsp each of ground coriander, cumin and chilli flakes
  • Plain yoghurt, seasoned
  • Chopped coriander

Method

  • Gentle heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof saucepan or sauté pan on the simmering plate and add the onion slices
  • Stir and cook until softened (as you know, the best way to do this is to cover the pan and place it in the simmering oven for 15 minutes or so)
  • Add all the remaining ingredients except for the yoghurt and coriander. Season and mix well
  • Put the lid back on and place the pan in the roasting oven (with the rack on the third rung from the top) and cook for 30-35 minutes or maybe longer if your squash is still hard, as mine was. If you’ve started it in good time, you could just remove it to the simmering oven now and leave it there until it’s time to eat
  • Scatter over the coriander and serve with rice or toasted pitta bread. Put the yoghurt in a bowl on the table for people to help themselves.

 

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Duck Confit

Duck Confit

As I mentioned in my last post, during January we are going to avoid meat during the week while continuing to enjoy it on Sundays. I had bought duck legs in the run-up to Christmas, thinking I would make duck confit. However, all the other Christmas preparation got in the way and I didn’t get round to it so I put them in my freezer.

Confit is usually the leg of a bird that is naturally fatty such as goose, duck, or even pork (pigs do fly in this house), that has been salted, seasoned, cooked and finally preserved in its own fat.

I read recently that you don’t have to make duck confit weeks in advance: it will taste delicious if made the day before you plan to eat it. With this in mind I defrosted six duck legs on Friday, salted them overnight, prepared them on Saturday and we ate four of them for Sunday lunch yesterday. The remaining two will reside in my fridge for a few weeks.

This wasn’t the first time I’d made confit but it had been a while so I read two or three recipes before starting. This is what I did:

Ingredients

  • 6 duck legs (mine were Gressingham)
  • 90g Maldon sea salt
  • About 1kg (I used 3 x 320g jars) of duck fat; you could also use goose fat
  • 6 garlic cloves, bruised but not peeled
  • 12 peppercorns, crushed
  • 6 juniper berries, crushed
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • 3 bay leaves, each cut in half
  • red wine
  • plum jam
  • granulated sugar
  • red wine vinegar

Method

  • Once the duck lugs had thawed on Friday I laid them in a dish in one layer and rubbed the salt into them. I covered the dish with clingfilm and placed it in the fridge overnight
  • On Saturday I spooned the duck fat into my large Aga roasting tin and placed it on the floor of the roasting oven for 5 minutes to heat the fat
  • Meanwhile I washed the duck legs thoroughly (this is important: you don’t want them to taste too salty) under cold running water
  • I then placed them in the duck fat with the garlic, juniper, peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves, covered the tin with foil and placed it on the floor of the simmering oven for 3 ½  hours (I’m sure I could have left them for longer); you’re aiming for tender meat so that when a skewer is inserted into the flesh it finds little resistance
  • I removed the tin from the oven and let it cool down for half an hour before lifting out four of the legs and placing them in a dish while placing the remaining two in a plastic container which had a lid
  • I strained the cooled duck fat over the legs in both containers. When everything was cold I fitted the lid to the plastic container and covered the dish and placed both in the fridge
  • On Sunday morning, about an hour before I wanted to cook the duck legs, I took the dish with the four legs out of the fridge and then an hour later I scraped the fat off each leg and placed them on the large Aga baking tray, lined with bake-o-glide of course
  • I roasted the legs near the top of the roasting oven for 25 minutes. While they were cooking I made a sauce which involved simply bringing to the boil on the simmering plate some red wine, plum jam, granulated sugar and red wine vinegar and letting it simmer in the simmering oven for 20 minutes or so

I  served our duck confit with the plum sauce, boulangère potatoes, red cabbage and broccoli. It was complemented by a superb glass from a bottle of the Italian wine Settebraccia. It comes from the Salento region of Italy and had been given as a gift to my husband. In future I will be more organised and prepare my confit a few weeks before Christmas so that I know I have at least one meal sorted for this busy season.

Jerusalem Artichokes with Fennel and Peas

Jerusalem Artichokes with Fennel and Peas

Having consumed during the Christmas period one massive turkey, a Norwegian spiced pork belly, a baked ham and a venison casserole, we are craving vegetables in this house. Sprouts, red cabbage, salads and lots of fruit also featured heavily on the menu but meat predominated. I’m not saying we’re going in for Veganuaray or any other New Year trend; it’s about needing to reset our dietary priorities. This month I’m going to cook without meat during the week but we’ll continue to have a roast or other meat dish on Sundays.

With this in mind I was delighted to pore over one of my Christmas presents from my sons: Joe Trivelli’s book, The Modern Italian Cook. I confess I was not familiar with Trivelli, who is head chef of the River Café, but I am glad to have been introduced. And Diana Henry, whose recipes you know I love, gave it a mention in her Telegraph column. If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.

It’s a beautiful book and I want to make everything in it but so far I’ve only got as far as making one of the dishes twice, first as a starter on New Year’s Eve and then last night we had it as our main meal with some fresh bread to mop up the juices. The recipe works well in the Aga.

Jerusalem artichokes with fennel and peas

Serves 4 (or 6 as a starter)

Ingredients

  • 500g Jerusalem artichokes
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed
  • ½ large or 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 500g frozen peas
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 2 parsley sprigs or a handful of chopped parsley
  • 1 lemon
  • Sea salt, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil

Method

  • Peel the artichokes and cut into wedges. Keep under water to stop them discolouring.
  • Remove any stringy-looking outer parts of the fennel and cut into thin wedges. Toss in some lemon juice to prevent them discolouring
  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy-based, wide pan with a lid and sweat the onion with a pinch of salt. You could place the pan in the simmering oven at this point
  • Once the onion is soft add the garlic and a minute or two later the fennel. Stew with the lid on for five minutes (or longer if you put it in the simmering oven)
  • Add the Jerusalem artichokes, peas and some black pepper and continue to stew. Trivelli says to do this for 10 minutes over a low heat but my artichokes needed a lot longer than this (in the simmering oven) before they were soft. In fact, to try to speed things up I put the pan in the baking oven for a while. And Trivelli is right to say that Jerusalem artichokes cook unevenly: I found that when some wedges were soft and tender, others were still hard. But your patience will be rewarded, I promise you
  • Once your artichokes are cooked, check the seasoning, add your herbs and stir them through with some extra virgin olive oil
  • Serve with wedges of lemon to squeeze over

 

 

Christmas Recipes: Norwegian Spiced Pork Belly

Christmas Recipes: Norwegian Spiced Pork Belly

For me Christmas is not the time for trying out new recipes so our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals don’t change much from year to year. When I was growing up (in England) with my Norwegian mother and English father we celebrated Christmas the Norwegian way on Christmas Eve and the English way on Christmas Day. This meant my brother and I could open our presents on Christmas Eve and our friends were rather jealous. The evening would begin with dinner and then we’d sit round the Christmas tree for the present opening. I’ve never opened presents on Christmas Day so I don’t know what it’s like but I can tell you there is something magical about doing it by candlelight when it’s dark outside.

When I married my husband I was fully expecting to leave the Norwegian Christmas Eve behind but he loved this way of doing it with all the cosiness and candles and insisted we kept the tradition going. I’m so glad we did because our children have always loved it, partly because it makes their Christmas a little bit different from their friends’. 

Christmas Eve: Herrings

Our Christmas Eve meal always starts with Norwegian pickled herrings. We buy them from the Christmas Bazaar held every November in the The Norwegian Seamen’s Church in Rotherhithe, London. When she was younger, my mother used to spend a couple of days with friends in London helping to prepare these for sale at the bazaar. She doesn’t do that anymore so my sons have accepted the mission of going along on the Saturday of the bazaar and purchasing a few jars of this most delicious food. I haven’t managed to join them yet but intend to go along one year, if only for the waffles, cake and coffee on offer inside the church! We eat the herrings on rye bread accompanied by ice cold Linie Aquavit straight from the freezer and cold lager. So delicious.

Christmas Eve: Spiced Pork Belly

There is more than one traditional Christmas Eve meal in Norway. On the West coast they have cod cooked in a special way.  It is bought very fresh, cut into steaks, put in salted water overnight to tighten the flesh and then poached. It is served with melted butter and lots of chopped parsley and plain boiled carrots and potatoes. Perhaps surprisingly, Norwegians always drink red wine and not white with this dish. My mother’s family always had reindeer for their Christmas Eve meal but spiced pork belly, popular as a Christmas dish on the south coast of Norway where my grandfather was from, would also form part of their festive fare. We have made pork belly our traditional Hardy family Christmas Eve dish. I make it according to my grandmother’s recipe, passed to me by my mother, who has given me permission to share it with you here.

You will need:

  • Pork belly (you decide how much, depending on how many people you are feeding, but remember, it tastes just as good cold so any leftovers will not go to waste) with the skin removed (I get my butcher to do this) but the fat – very important this – left on
  • Ground ginger, salt, mustard powder and white pepper. I’m not giving you quantities except to say: be generous

Method

  • The day before you want to serve the belly score the layer of fat with a sharp knife and rub lots of white pepper, ground ginger, mustard powder and salt into it on both sides and wrap it in clingfilm IMG_4150
  • Place it in the fridge fat side down for at least 24 hours
  • On Christmas Eve in the morning take the belly out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature
  • Sprinkle on some more salt
  • Choose a roasting tin (I always use the large Aga roasting tin because I tend to cook a whole belly), remove the clingfilm and place the meat in the tin, fat side down
  • Add about a cupful of water and cover with foil
  • Hang the tin on the second or third set of runners of the roasting oven, taking care that the foil doesn’t tear as you slide it in
  • After twenty minutes take it out, remove the foil, turn the pork over and add a little more water if it looks dry
  • Slide the tin onto the floor of the simmering oven and leave it there for the rest of the day, checking the water level every now and then. It will be cooked and delicious after five hours but even better and falling off the bone after eight or nine

I serve it with spiced red cabbage and roast potatoes, having made a divinely spicy and gingery gravy by adding some wine and sour cream to the meat juices.

For pudding we usually have this Norwegian apple cake which my mother makes for us according to my grandmother’s recipe.  

 

 

 

 

 

Beef and Sun-Dried Tomato Stew

Beef and Sun-Dried Tomato Stew

Before she became a TV celebrity Mary Berry was known as an Aga cook who ran courses on how to get the most out of your Aga as well as for writing The Aga Book which I believe is still given to every new Aga owner when their new oven is installed. My mother-in-law, who has owned a few Agas in her time, learned how to make this stew on one of Mary Berry’s courses and wrote it out for me many years ago because she thought it was so simple yet so delicious. I never got round to making it then but when I found a jar of sun-dried tomatoes which needed using up in my fridge recently, the recipe sprang to mind and I dug it out.

You can make this the day before, refrigerate it overnight and reheat it gently in the simmering oven the next day. I have never worked out why but casseroles are often better when made a day ahead.

The quantities of wine and stock given here are approximate because, as we Aga cooks know, you tend to need less liquid in an Aga. I start with the wine and stop pouring when the meat is almost but not completely covered. You can always add stock later on if you think it needs it.

Beef and Sun-Dried Tomato Stew

(Serves 4 generously)

Ingredients

  • 800g braising beef, cubed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Approx. 250ml red wine
  • (Approx. 250ml beef stock: see above)
  • 10-12 sun-dried tomatoes, halved
  • 10g dried mushrooms (I used porcini)
  • 1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée

Method

  • First you need to brown the meat. To avoid splashing oil everywhere you can do this in the roasting oven, as I did when I made boeuf bourgignon
  • Spread the beef out on your large baking tray, lined with bake-o-glide if you like, drizzle it with olive oil and season
  • Slide the tray onto the first runner and leave it there for 5 minutes before moving it to the floor of the oven for a further 5 minutes, by which time your beef should be browned
  • (You can of course brown your meat the conventional way, in batches in olive oil on the boiling plate)
  • Meanwhile in a large casserole gently fry your onion and pepper slices in a tablespoon or two of olive oil (if your sun-dried tomatoes come from a jar you can use some of the oil from that), starting it off on the simmering plate before covering it and putting it in the simmering oven
  • Pour 100ml of hot water onto the mushrooms and put them to one side for 15 minutes
  • When the onions and peppers are soft place the casserole on the boiling plate, add the beef and stir the flour into it
  • Add the red wine and, if required, the stock and bring to the boil
  • Stir in the tomato purée, mushrooms with their soaking water and apricot jam
  • Cover and place in the simmering oven for a minimum of three hours until the beef is tender. Add seasoning to taste

This is delicious with mashed potato but I think I prefer it with rice. Serve with a green vegetable too.