Tuesday, 20 December 2011


In Norway it is a tradition to bake seven different kinds of cakes and cookies before Christmas. I must admit I haven't made them all, but so far we have four varieties in our cookie jars. It varies slightly from year to year what kinds we want to make, but the Norwegian donuts called "Smultringer" are a must. There are after all few things that taste as good as fresh donuts straight from the pan.

I have used the same recipe for years, and it is always successful.

2 eggs
150 grams of sugar
100 ml sour cream
150 ml cream
400 grams flour
1 teaspoon cardamom
3 teaspoons baking powder
A pinch of salt

Beat eggs and sugar until fluffy and mix in sour cream and cream. Stir the flour gently into the mix. The dough should be left cold for a few hours, preferably overnight in the refrigerator, before being rolled out to about one centimeter thickness.
We deep fry them in our wide Le Creuset sauté pan which is absolutely ideal for this sort of work.

You are supposed to fry them in lard, but that just smells too intense for me. I prefer coconut fat but you can use any kind of shortening.

We will probably need to make another batch of these gorgeous cakes this Christmas, because they tend to disappear quickly. Once when we invited some friends over to a Christmas workshop with baking, I fried more than 150 rings. It was a huge pile, and I thought that we would surely have donuts until Easter. But before the night was through, there was not a single donut left. The guests had munched up every single one of them

 Our ​​poodle boy was appointed the ring tester this year. A task he seemed to appreciate a lot.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Better butter

In these "low-carb" times fat no longer appears to be public enemy number one. Seems to me that people everywhere are "dieting" while stuffing themselves with bacon, cream and butter. Ah well, I'm not so sure that is such a good idea, but as far as butter is concerned I'll gladly admit I like it a lot.I am not a big fan of supermarket butter though. It usually tastes so bland. However, we get so used to it that we think it is supposed to taste like that, don't we? When I do get served old fashioned proper butter, it's like a revelation - so this is what butter really tastes like!

Well, since we are entering the festive season, I think we should serve the real thing on our Christmas table.  Only the best will do at this time of the year. However, if you want to taste real butter, you've got to churn it yourself. You'll be surprised how quick and easy it is and how little effort it will take to impress your friends when you serve the best butter they have ever tasted.

You can make butter from either sour cream or regular cream, needless to say the full fat variety. Sour cream gives a fuller, slightly tangy flavour.

Personally, I use half and half. About a cup of each is a good meassure.

You can use any sort of kitchen appliance that will whip cream, or if you want to burn off some calories you can even just use a jar and shake it vigourously for a while. I use a standard Tefal food prosessor.
First, the cream will turn into a thick white mass.

Then, after a couple of minutes, it separates and the yellow butter emerges.

The butter and the milk have separated and it is almost finished.

Try to gather it all together with a spatula.

Then comes the hands-on work. Knead the lump of butter to get out as much milk as you can. You will not be able to get it all out, so it will need to be washed in cold water.

Have a bowl of ice water standing by and drop the butter in. Because the water is icy cold, the butter will not dissolve in the water butwill repell it. Change the water at least once and make sure there is no more milk to wash out.

Lightly dry the butter with a paper towel, then put it back in the emptied and dried bowl. The butter will now have a smooth and lovely texture that is easy to work with.

Now it's time to add a bit of flavour. A teaspoon of salt is really all it needs. Use a spoon to knead the salt in, and taste it to see if you have added sufficient salt or if you need to add a bit more.

Find a suitable container and voila you're done! We had this empty jar that had once contained Stilton cheese and it fitted the bill perfectly.
By the way, make sure you keep the butter at room temperature to keep it spreadable. Don't worry about it going off. It will disappear so quickly that it won't have the chance.

If you like, you can of course add more flavour. You can use all sorts, depending on what you are going to serve it with.
Some chopped parsley and a spoonfull of lemon juice will be the perfect accompaniment for fish.

Some grated lemon zest and a bit of white pepper will jazz it up even more.

The buttermilk should not be wasted. You can drink it if you like, just make sure you strain it properly first, or else it will have little bits of fat and butter floating in it. We prefer to use it for baking.

This was added to the breadmix along with the leftovers from yesterday's mashed potatoes. The breadmix is about a kilo of plain flour, 200 grams of rye, 200 grams of oats and a handfull each of linseeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, a teaspoon of salt and finally a spoonful of honey to feed the yeast. Bake for 40 minutes at 200 degrees Celcius. This will make a very tasty and rich bread.

Now, what could be better than home churned butter melting on a slice of freshly baked bread still hot from the oven? Perhaps a corncob sprinkled with crunchy sea salt and a good dollop of that golden butter. Mmmm, don't tell me you're not tempted.

Monday, 17 October 2011

There is still life in the garden

Although the first night-frost has done away with most of the summer flowers a good while ago, there are some hardy plants that blossom still. They stretch their heads and do their best to soak up the low autumn sun whenever it makes one of its rare appearances.

The Spanish Marguerites are still alive, even though the flowering may not be as vigorous as before. They are still beautiful though.

Looks like it's time to collect seeds from the marigolds, so that I can plant more next year. These flowers were among the most successful newcomers in the garden this year, and they really looked great in front of the house. I think they will come back again in the spring, but I would like to have them other places as well.

I don’t remember what these funny things are called, but they actually didn’t begin flowering before October. All summer the green modest leaves stood there, and I never thought I would get anything out of these seeds. However, it seems that autumn is their time. They are still full of flower buds waiting to blossom. 
The winter is so long here in Norway, so it's good that there are some tough plants, which extends the summer season for just a little while.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Food from our own garden

My dream of growing our own vegetables has almost rained away. There has just not been enough sunlight for the vegetables to grow properly. In addition, there has been so much rain that some plants have simply drowned. It was actually so bad that green algae grew in the little puddles that formed around the vegetable beds, since it was never dry enough for the soil to absorb all the water. Because of all the moisture, the peas as well as several other plants have developed some sort of fungal disease.

The only things thriving in this weather are slugs, which have feasted on my fragile flowers and vegetables. Can you imagine, they ate up all my radishes, except for one. The string bean plants that were large and lovely when I planted them out, were quickly reduced to unsightly stems some of which only produced a single bean.

It is easy to give up in such miserable conditions, but I was nonetheless determined that all the hard work should result in at least a couple of dinners. So today I went out between the rain showers, and harvested a small selection of vegetables as an accompaniment for the meatballs.

Well, this isn’t exactly the bountiful vegetable basket I had planned for, but it will suffice as dinner for two. Here we have potatoes in various sizes, carrots in more or less obscene shapes, a few string beans, some pea pods, a small onion, two tiny leeks, some sugar snaps, and a single cherry tomato. None of the other tomatoes have ripened yet, and I doubt whether they ever will, now that we are struggling with a growth defeating combination of low night temperatures as well as a lack of sun. However, I have not completely given up. I have brought the smaller tomato plants inside and placed them in the bay window, hoping the fruits will ripen there.

Here we have the result: Meatballs in onion sauce, potatoes, carrots, peas and green beans. Aside from the meatballs, everything comes from the garden, as does the blackcurrant juice, by the way.
Home grown produce harvested from the garden less than an hour previously tasted wonderful! I just wish there was more of it….

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Turn it off!

Once I had a Persian cat. You know the sort, with a flat face and a superior attitude, as spoiled and grumpy as only a real Persian can be. She took it for granted that I lived only to cater for her every need, and as the self-appointed servant that I was, I did everything in my power to make her life as comfortable as possible: I offered her my snug and cosy lap when it was windy, found the big, warm sheepskin pillow when it was cold, and provided a shady resting place when it was hot. There was only one thing I couldn’t do anything about - rain. A fact which, needless to say, vexed her terribly.
Puss enjoyed the outdoors, but simply couldn’t bear to get her fur wet. Whenever she felt like a bit of fresh air, she wandered over to the veranda door and meowed compellingly. If, to her dismay, it was raining outside, she stood there with her backend safely inside and sniffed the air disapprovingly, before she turned and stared reproachfully at me, as if to say: Turn it off! Make this damned water falling from the sky stop!
It has been many years now since Puss departed from this life on earth. I think she is probably resting blissfully in heaven, on one of those tiny white clouds, far away from the wind and wet weather. I don’t think of her as often anymore, but I remembered her today as I stood with the veranda door ajar and stared miserably out at the rain pouring down for the umpteenth day in a row. I found myself looking up towards the weather gods, imploring them: Turn it off!
I'm so tired of rain! The consolation for summer being over, is supposed to be that autumn is so beautiful, with its warm, vibrant colours and crisp, cool air. Not this year. Now it's just grey and brown, threatening dark clouds and mud.
I don’t know if the weather gods read house blogs, but in the offhand chance they might be looking for some easy reading, I will take this opportunity to tell them what sort of autumn I would like to have:

I wish for blue skies and a sun that makes the trees look like huge flaming torches with their beautiful yellow and orange leaves.

I would like to enjoy the sight of rowan trees showing off their crimson berries.

I want to go strolling in the woods, playfully kicking through dry leaves. When I'm tired, I’d like to rest my legs and sit for a while on a dry and sun-warmed wooden bench.

I want to sit in a shelter and admire the view over a valley, while I enjoy a hot cup of coffee from my thermos.

I’d like to see sun-ripe stalks of grass bowed over, heavy with seed, promising me that they will provide green meadows when spring comes next year.

I want to see rows of hay bales, (in Norway they are covered in white plastic, and we call them “tractor eggs”.) so that the farmers and their animals have what they need through the winter.

I’d like to look at a lake reflecting the clear blue colour of the sky, and a late afternoon sun that will make even an old rowboat look picturesque.

I wish for red rosehips, bursting with promises of fragrant, pink petals.

I want to see a timeworn old fence, and run my hand over the brittle, weathered wood, knowing that it won’t rot away this autumn either.

Is it too much to hope for, you think?

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Autumn Feeling

I got the first real autumn feeling today, when I was out in the garden and discovered that the leaves on the trees are starting to turn yellow. The air felt cold in a way that makes you want a thick woolly jumper and warm socks.

The desire came over me to snuggle up in a comfy armchair in front of the fireplace with a rug and a cup of hot chocolate.

There was even some cake left over from the weekend. Flake Cake made from my Mother in law’s recipe. It may not look too impressive, but it’s absolutely scrumptious. It’s rich and tasty, and goes perfect with hot chocolate. The lovely big cup is Ego from the Finish designer Iittala. I only have one, so it’s perfect for indulging on one’s own.

Hubby has taught me how to make a delicious hot chocolate: Just warm the milk, break up a few pieces of chocolate in the blender, pour over the milk and blast it for a few seconds. Then you get lovely frothy chocolate. A couple of marshmallows are the Pièce de résistance.
Here I have used Rausch Plantagen chocolate, which is absolutely gorgeous. You can get it with different degrees of cocoa content, so you’re able to pick your favourite. After extensive testing (It was hard work, I can tell you.), I finally concluded that 43% is right for me. I'm not so fond of this rock hard dark chocolate with a high cocoa content. Mostly I've only eaten it because it’s supposed to be healthier than other chocolate. However, I read in the newspaper last week that milk chocolate was healthy as well, so now it’s happy days.

I don’t know why, but it’s like I am addicted to flames at this time of the year. I just have to burn candles all the time, and keep the fire going, even if it's really warm enough without it. The urge to make the house feel cosy, snug and comfy must be due to a need to comfort myself for the fact that summer is over and we have a long cold winter ahead.
I designed and made the sheoak tray, as well as the knitted rug. I think I have bragged about it on the blog before, but I rarely manage to finish a knitting project, so I just have to show off a little.

The embroidered linen cushion is new. I think it fits the chair perfectly, especially with a sheepskin rug to set it off. The amphora is something I brought back from Spain a few years ago. It is very brittle, so I wrapped it up as best I could and actually managed to get it home in one piece. When I put it in the holder though, the silly thing cracked. Now it's artfully glued back together, and really doesn’t look too bad.

Eddie grows bigger every day, and is starting to resemble a real standard poodle. He is seven months old today, and has learned to appreciate the pleasures of autumn. After frolicking around in the autumn leaves, he thinks it's really nice to doze in front of the fireplace.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

First potatoes from the garden

After all the rain we've been having lately, I was getting worried for our potatoes. Some of the plants were starting to look very sorry for themselves, so today I pulled up a few to check on the progress. I needn't have worried. The spuds were looking pink and healthy, albeit a bit small still.

Today we'll have our first home grown potatoes with the Sunday roast. We have covered a pork neck with a thick layer of French herbs and garlic. It has been in the oven for an hour now, and it smells simply divine. So I'll wish myself Bon Appétit!

Hope you all have a lovely Sunday.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Polka Rose

I have cupboards full of porcelain. They are overflowing with tableware that just stands there and collects dust. I usually take them out to use them once or twice a year, just to justify to myself that I really do need them. But has overflowing cupboards ever stopped me from wanting more? Oh no.
Now I have come across a tea set from Royal Doulton, which I think is sooo beautiful.

Royal Albert Polka Rose – isn’t it just beautiful? They are new this year, and inspired by the shapes and colours of the 1930's.

The light green color is precisely my favourite, and the pink roses inside are so beautiful. I have never really been hung up on polka dots, but here they were somehow fitting. There is something deliciously luxurious about delicate bone china, and I think the lovely creamy white colour is much nicer than the greyish colour of normal everyday tableware.

I'm quite sure I would have been a just a tiny little bit happier if I had my morning coffee served from this mug.

And just look at this beautiful clock. Wouldn’t that have been something to have in the kitchen? But, do I need it? Alas, no.

It’s funny to see how the English make such extravagant accessories for their tea sets. I can’t ever see myself buying this little lady with a roses and polka dots dress, but she certainly is adorable.