Since the pandemic began, I’ve baked bread almost every weekend. Some weekends I was away. On a few weekends I didn’t make bread. But mostly I was home, and mostly, on the weekends, I made bread.
To put a finer point on it, there were just six weekends since the pandemic began when I did not make bread. At these particular times I was climbing in Northern Norway, enjoying my family’s cabin in Southern Karelia, or running in the mountainous Inland region of Norway. There was one weekend I simply didn’t want to make bread and another one during the Christmas holidays when I forgot it was the weekend.
Those occasions were the exceptions. Bread-making weekends outnumbered other weekends by a long shot. As words like smittevern and coronatiltak became new, then old, I was in my kitchen taking out bread from a hot oven. Bread-making settled into a new weekly routine. Hjemmekontor, skjenkestopp, bread-making. In the summer, my trip to Canada got cancelled. In the fall, the second wave began. Meanwhile, my bread got consistently good, even spitefully good. This week came news that Norway would once again put in place strict new measures to stop the spreading. I was in the kitchen when I heard the news. In this post, I’ll show you the steps I use to making bread in the time of corona.
It’s a grey Sunday in May and the kitchen is stifling warm. I woke up early and had a pancake breakfast, alone, which, prolonged by coffee refills, continued peremptorily into lunch. That seemed a reasonable excuse to cut into one of the still-warm loaves of bread that had come out of the scorching hot oven some hour or two ago. I ate five slices consecutively, hastily adorned with salty butter that melted into the crumb like it was an overly cushioned lazy chair.
This post is about pancakes made from the portions of sourdough that are leftover from feeding the starter for sourdough bread. I recommend enjoying these pancakes with housemates or with whomever happens to be in your warm kitchen on a May morning. Or alone, if they are nowhere to be found.
Perhaps you’ve made a sourdough starter before. You recall the memories with a mix of wonder and anxiety. There was a shapeless blob sitting in a mason jar on the counter. It bubbled and frothed for a couple of days and then - having forgotten about it for a few days - evolved into a greyish goop, a dark layer of scum settling on top. Defeated, you threw it out and went back to baking with packets of Fleischmann’s, steadfast and true.
But now, you find yourself with time on your hands. Maybe you crave a bit of rhythm in your day. You don’t mind rolling up your sleeves and getting a bit floury. With the trauma of your first sourdough starter behind you, you think: it's time to try again. This time, I'll get it right.
This post is about getting on the right start again with sourdough baking. I share my tips from four years of baking sourdoughs. I will also give you my sourdough rye recipe which gives the best bang for your buck: reliably delicious and easy to make in a bread form.
Rakfisk is a Norwegian dish of fermented trout. Words cannot describe how bad it stinks. Evolution, which has given us a sense of smell and an instinctual ability to distinguish what food is good to eat from that which is putrid, has led up to the moment that one is confronted with rakfisk. It's a poignant moment, when, despite all common sense, you put the reeking fish in your mouth and chew. Seconds pass, and - as if by some magic - the smell vanishes. Instead of botulism, an otherworldly taste emerges. An aftertaste lingers. And you go in for more.
This post is about the Norwegian culture phenom that is rakfisk and about how to prepare it for a festive Christmas season.
Man, it feels good to post again!
This one is about a simple and lovely dish called fårikål, or "lamb in cabbage," which is Norway’s delicious and uncontrived national dish. First and foremost, I love this dish because it is so simple. As the name implies, it is literally just lamb and cabbage. But don’t let its simplicity belie its flavour. The end result of a good hour or two of gentle simmering, combined with the right selection of mature, autumn lamb, is a balance of flavours akin to a culinary magic trick.
Kristin makes the best knekkebrød I’ve ever tasted, and visitors to our home in Norway ubiquitously agree. It’s thick, crunchy, and fragrant - plus it's excellent with salty butter. Knekkebrød (literally translated to “cracky bread”) is a type of unleavened rye-based crispbread found all over the Nordics. Recipes vary depending on region, but generally the onomatopoeia of its namesake is an apt enough description of its contents: it’s like bread, only “crackier.” In Norway they tend to like it loaded with wholesome seeds. The first time I saw it made, I was skeptical it had enough flour to bind it together.
“Cod is best during the winter. Of course, you knew that, coming from Newfoundland?” I was with my Norwegian colleague, Egil, at the university I work at in Trondheim. I returned his question with a blank stare. During much of the winter in Newfoundland, the cod fishery is closed. And when it was available, I don't recall winter season cod being anything to write home about. So what was he talking about? Taking my silence as his cue, Egil launched into a lesson with a seafood lover's zeal. “The cod is spawning at this time of year. We call them skrei. They are full of health, full of flavour, and - most importantly - full of roe. It’s traditional to boil the cod and serve it with its roe and liver. It’s a meal for celebrations!”
I was totally stunned. Same fish, different side of the pond. So why was the spawning cod considered a delicacy in one fishery but virtually unheard of in the other?
This post is about rediscovering a fish in Norway that I was practically raised with in Newfoundland. I look into the skrei fishery, which refers to the unique Northeast Arctic Cod stock - and represents the world’s only remaining sustainable cod fishery. I also share a fantastic recipe that I've tested over the past several weeks for poached cod with its roe and liver, prepared in the traditional Norwegian style.
Sveler ("sveh-lehr") are thick Norwegian pancakes, enriched with sugar, butter, and cultured milk. In appearance and texture they are similar to the prototypical American pancake, so you'd be forgiven for the two were alike. Sveler, however, have ventured where no other pancake has gone before. Long ago they graduated from the brunch table and have since taken up residence in several niche Norwegian snack times, such in the daypacks of weekend cross country skiers and in the galleys of ferry boats sailing in the Western fjords of Norway. This post tells the story about how I got to know and love these pancakes. And I'll share my recipe to boot.
It’s my favourite time of year. Not Christmas exactly, and not quite New Years Eve, either. No, it's the lovely time warp in between; the Sunday evening to the calendar year, a time out, untouchable, slowed down. During this week I’m never quite sure what day it is, but there's a few things I can always count on: a fire in the fireplace (first time since last Christmas), books read, books completed, board games, long walks, and - most important of all - overeating of good food (without feeling the slightest bit bad about it).
I want to share a dish that’s perfect for the days between Christmas and New Years Eve: Karjalanpiirakka (Kar-ya-lan pee-rakka), or “Karelian pasties” in English. A classic Finnish dish, they are simple and they are delicious. They are perfect to make during the days between Christmas and New Years because at this time of year it’s okay to spend a whole day in the kitchen and make a mess and produce obscure Nordic foods to share with friends who have long overstayed their welcome. And if you totally fuck it up, that's okay, too. At least you've warmed up the kitchen with the oven (cranking the oven to max is mandatory for this recipe). So gather round your toasty kitchen, let your friends keep raiding your liquor cabinet, and share a round of piping hot Karelian pasties.
Finally! I’m finished with my Master’s thesis, done with a season of climbing in the Rockies, and settled into my new life Norway. That's right. I moved to Norway. It’s been a busy couple months, and at long last it’s time to focus on what’s really important: food. This post was inspired by a recipe for fishcakes passed down from my great-grandmother "Nan Fitz" on the Newfoundland side of the family (scroll to the bottom or see the recipe here). A comfort food true-and-true, the recipe was for me welcome fodder as a recent Newfoundland expat. And as circumstance would have it, salt cod, or klippfisk as it’s known as in Norway, is a traditional food in my new home, too. This post tell the story of how salt cod connects distant shores and offers a recipe for Newfoundland fishcakes in celebration of its trans-Atlantic history.
I'm Erik, the Burnt Chef. I'm a Finnish-born Newfoundlander living in Norway. I have a passion for cooking and a deep fascination for the culinary history of the North. Simplicity guides my cooking. Time, place, and history guide my storytelling. This is my personal blog about food.