I spent a day at the Scandinavian Christmas fair late last month with Jeanne from Cooksister (the same as featured here last year and Jeanne wrote about our visit this year) and one of the many delicious things we tasted was a Norwegian fish ball soup, all hot and creamy and just the thing for the cold day. Once I got home, the memory of that soup stayed with me and I knew I had to recreate it!

Norwegian Fish Soup

It turns out fish soup is incredibly quick to put together and perfect for a cold winter’s night. As salmon was on offer at our supermarket, I only used that but you could mix and match with a number of fishes; prawns would be good too. It’s wonderfully creamy and filling and I only wonder why I’d not made it before. There are similar soups served in Sweden and Finland and I now hope to investigate the differences between them all.

Norwegian Fish Soup
serves 4.

2 large carrots
1 large leek
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cups fish stock (I used a bouillon cube)
1 large potato
500g salmon fillets
100-150ml double cream
fresh dill
salt and white pepper
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Peel and cut the carrots into chunks. Clean the leeks (slice them lengthwise), trim anything too tough and slice into 1cm half circles. Heat a pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and cook the carrots for a few minutes. Add the leeks and continue cooking until the leeks start to soften. Pour in the fish stock and bring to a boil. Peel the potato and cut into small chunks. Lower the heat, add the potato and let the whole thing simmer until the vegetables are soft.

Meanwhile, cut the salmon fillets into large chunks – not too small or they’ll just fall apart in the soup later. Add the salmon chunks into the soup when the vegetables are soft. Stir gently. When the fish is cooked through, pour in the double cream and continue to simmer it all together for a few minutes (don’t bring it to a boil). Salt and pepper the soup to taste and stir through the Worcestershire sauce. Finally, add as much dill as you wish and serve with lots of crusty bread and perhaps a salad on the side.

I’m not kidding when I say I was surviving in Oslo for a whole week. I was still suffering badly from the post-Christmas cold that had me down for a while and having to work in a freezing climate (though it was about 10 degrees warmer than it usually is) didn’t help one bit. Throw in a bout of gastroenteritis and yeah, I’d call it the worst business trip I’d ever had.

Norway isn’t a cheap country and eating out is particularly expensive; I believe Norwegians themselves tend to mainly eat at home and only go out for special occasions. As a visitor staying at a hotel, cooking was out of the question and, of course, the only option was to feed myself at restaurants; of course, with all that illness, I had to look at places either on the way back from work or near my hotel. This is a selection of things that I managed to down that week in Oslo.

The first night, Iwent to Kaffistova, the “budget” eatery where one could taste Norwegian cuisine. It’s all canteen hotplate food and my plate of 3 large meatballs, boiled potatoes and mashed boiled dried peas cost NOK 149 (the exchange rate was NOK 9 to the pound). It wasn’t brilliant but it filled me up and kept me warm inside.

Meatballs at Kaffistova

My hotel (the beautiful Hotel Bristol dating back to 1920) had the most amazing breakfast spread – freshly squeezed juices, pancakes, waffles, omelettes, salmon, herring, sausages, cheeses – there was a lot of stuff! Sadly, for most mornings, I could barely stomach any food. This was my breakfast the first morning.

The Scandinavian hotel breakfast is always a good start to the day

One night, we all went out for pizzas at Villa Paradiso, considered the best Italian restaurant in Oslo. Here, a proper Neapolitan pizza will set you back about NOK 170. They’re certainly very good pizzas but yeah, they ain’t cheap.

Pizza at Villa Paradiso in Oslo

When I was feeling at my weakest, I made it an early night and grabbed takeaway from a nearby United Bakeries (the branch on Karl Johans Gate). This salami and avocado focaccia sandwich hit the spot.

Sandwich

A cinnamon bun from the same place was only ok – it was a bit too hard for my liking. It had likely been sitting out the entire day.

Cinnamon Bun

One very late night after work, I managed a little rice and chicken tikka from Mezbaan on my delicate stomach and this portion (to be fair, it was quite generous) cost NOK 179. You’ve certainly been in Oslo a while when you start thinking…oh, that’s not too expensive…

Chicken Tikka

There were other sandwiches and Norwegian canteen food and even more Italian food in between. And by the time the day I was to fly off came around, my stomach had settled to a near normal level and I was once again able to take advantage of the hotel breakfast. First a plate of totally random things, including a little omelette and pate…

The first part of my last breakfast in Oslo

…and then finishing off with a proper Norwegian waffle. These are soft and pillowy and best topped with lots of jam.

And part two!

I did manage some sightseeing that last morning, including getting the most perfect view of the fjord from Akershus Festning.

Great View of the Fjord

Oslo is quite beautiful – which makes up for it being expensive! And their opera house! It’s gorgeous. I couldn’t stop staring at it; it fits so well in this Nordic city.

It was then off to the airport where I snarfed down a cheese pølse with bacon… I do love Scandinavian hot dogs. Not exactly haute cuisine but it went down a treat.

Cheese Pølse with Bacon

That was probably not very useful to anyone heading to Oslo! For a proper guide on where to eat out in Oslo, do check out Nordic Nibbler’s list! Mr Noodles has also tried a few places in the city.

I guess I do have some tips for what to bring back from Oslo – the milk chocolate there is brilliant. Single chocolate bars are expensive (about NOK 15-20 each) but the huge bars of milk chocolate (with lots of different additions) run about NOK 30-40 (I found lots available at the airport duty free at only NOK 30). They make great gifts – my colleagues inhaled Freia milk chocolate bars with Daim and Kvikk Lunsj. Another nice thing to bring back is ready made lefse, a Norwegian flatbread made with potato.

All my photos from my trip to Oslo can be found in this Flickr photoset.

Also just before the holiday season, I was invited to an event by Seafood from Norway to highlight the seafood delights from that Nordic country; this was a one-off supperclub to promote sustainable Norwegian Seafood in the UK and it was to be catered by Signe Johansen, cookbook author and brunch/supperclub hostess extraordinaire. The location was Republic of Fritz Hansen in central London, a gorgeous shop selling the best of Scandinavian design (why has no one told me of it?!).

The table was already starting to fill up with delicious morsels while people were arriving to the shop. Cured salmon with a shot of Linie aquavit, rye pannekaker, sour cream and pickled fennel was a delicious, and substantial, bite – I loved the pickled fennel with the sour cream and the cured fish.

Cured Salmon with a Shot of Linie Aquavit, Rye Pannekaker, Sour Cream and Pickled Fennel

If I had to choose favourites though, the other canape floated my boat more – the Sweet Norwegian prawns with wild dill pollen mayonnaise, lumpfish roe, pickled cucumber on sourdough crisp bread. These light little bites were perfectly balanced – creamy, crispy, sweet, salty, sour. Yes, yes, I do like Norwegian prawns, thank you very much.

Sweet Norwegian Prawns with Wild Dill Pollen Mayonnaise, Lumpfish Roe, Pickled Cucumber on Sourdough Crisp Bread

Battered cod cheeks with dill, anchovy and pickled cucumber salsa were another favourite; we were burning our fingers and spilling that moreish green sauce everywhere as we hastily scooped it up.

Battered Cod Cheeks with Dill, Anchovy and Pickled Cucumber Salsa

At this point, Signe emerged from the kitchen to tell us all about her Norwegian background and her love for seafood. The menu was sort of a taster of what a Norwegian Christmas table could feature if it was only all about the seafood (I think meat does feature traditionally). Completely unbeknownst to us, the woman sitting to Signe’s right in the photo below was the award winning Bridget Hugo, who runs Bread Bread in Brixton.

Bridget and Signe

Bridget’s breads were pretty spectacular. The brown one below was made of all rye and included slightly fermented rye grains. The half whole wheat also included some white flour and rye flour. Both were great with a good schmear of butter and we ate plenty of it just as is.

Rye Bread White/Whole/Rye Bread

We also scoffed quite a bit of bread with the next dish – Lightly-cured halibut with lemon and elderflower. Elderflower and fish? It was absolutely fantastic and I could have easily cleared the entire platter. It was my first time eating halibut in this cured way and I loved it.

Lightly-Cured Halibut with Lemon and Elderflower

Platters of salt-baked celeriac and a colourful kale and spelt salad now appeared on the table, ready to accompany our main course of Roast haddock with bacon and rye crisp.

Salt-Baked Celeriac Kale and Spelt Salad

And here was my plate. A modest serving as I had filled up on uh…prawns on crispbread. The haddock was lovely but I’m not a fan of the rye bread crisp on top. I understand that this topping is commonly used to top apple crisp in Sweden… and at last year’s Swedish Blind Date, it was made clear to me that it is perfectly awful. It’s indeed one way to use up leftover bread but I’ll give it a miss!

Roast Haddock with Bacon and Rye Crisp

After the meal, Signe then cheerfully brought out shots of aquavit for everyone…

Signe Brings Out the Aquavit

…which I passed and instead went straight for her fantastic homemade pepperkaker. A brick of brown cheese was also brought out and surprisingly, it pairs well with the pepperkaker.

Pepperkaker

Thank you very much to Lisa from Bray Leino for the invitation! It was a great introduction to Norwegian seafood and Norwegian cuisine prior to my business trip to Oslo.

For Norwegian Seafood in London, ask your local fishmonger or supermarket fish counter. I’ll be on the lookout for those prawns. To try some of Signe’s cooking, take a look at her website for updates.

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