Nigel Slater's Norwegian recipes (2024)

Unusually for Norway, there was no snow on the first day of Advent, but it didn't stop us tucking into hot wine and iced spiced biscuits as the city's trees were being lit up. Yes of course I was disappointed that the evening was warm enough for us not to need gloves, let alone my favourite silly hat, but nothing stops Oslo having adrink or three to celebrate the lighting of the city's seasonal trees and the opening of the Christmas market.

It had been a good week for eating, from squeaky-fresh, pearlescent scallops by the harbour to tiny cakes and yeast buns of such temptation I had to make another hole in my belt. (Reader, I put on 3kg in a week.) You know you are in for a good lunch when you see the fish arriving at the restaurant door barely an hour before you sit down; even more so when there are only two choices on the menu. Fish or fish. And so it was with my baked Arctic char and its little mounds of fried, diced apple and celery. There were festive chestnuts in the sauce and some lovely crisp bacon to add atouch of turf to the surf.

It would seem rude not to explore some of the country's famous fish soups. Salmon often turns up in the creamy depths here, as do scallops and mussels, but almost without exception with a nest of root vegetables cut into cheffy julienne, as a crisp contrast to the smooth soup. Some toss in alittle saffron, others a few snippets of dill or afew chives. I didn't have an under-par soup the entire week. The most dashing included a surprising swirl of mashed basil, which made me wonder why I don't include this herb with fish more often. Once home I couldn't wait to have a go.

Bypassing the smoked whale with juniper, the best dish Iate in Oslo was not, in fact, Norwegian but something that has become an international classic. Jelly-textured scallops, crisply fried in butter and served with the creamiest of cauliflower purées. The stroke of genius that separated this from those I've had elsewhere were the strips of crisp, wincingly sharp apple, something else to try at home in the New Year.

The best thing about a trip away is often not the food that confirms your expectations, such as Norway's fish soups and pretty pink prawns sold straight off the boats, but when you come across something unexpected. Scandinavia's love of baked goods is well documented, but I was taken by surprise by the sheer quantity of breads and cakes lying in wait for me – it seemed as if there was a cake waiting to mug me on every corner. Apple Danish with cinnamon, little cakes of berries and marzipan, chocolate scones (though not in the way we know them), muesli cookies, maple and pecan biscuits, lemon tarts and the almost compulsory iced cinnamon buns. It was here I came across the most gorgeous buns I've ever tucked into (soft sticky dough with maple syrup, almond paste, cardamom and chopped nuts). I've torn out the page in my diary that reminds me just how many I ate.

Almonds and marzipan run through Nordic baking like a road map, sometimes hiding right inside the swirls of yeast buns, a sweet surprise lurking at their heart. Back at home this week I have been busy baking delightful treats of almond and fruit that might work very nicely for those who can't face plum pudding. No snow here either, but nothing a bit of icing sugar won't solve.

Salmon, scallop and mussel soup

I've included a home-made stock in this recipe, but you can use a good-quality readymade fish stock if you prefer. You will need 800ml. The basil purée is an unusual and optional element, but really rather wonderful.

Serves 4
For the stock:
carrot 1
leek 1, small
olive or rapeseed oil 1 tbsp
onion 1, small
bay leaf 1
black peppercorns 6
fish bones 800g

For the basil purée (optional):
basil leaves 20g
olive oil 75ml

For the soup:
salmon fillet 400g, skinned
scallops 8
dill 10g
mussels 12
double cream 250ml

Make the fish stock. Roughly chop the carrot and the leek, put them in a deep pan with the oil and let them cook for 5 minutes over a low to moderate heat. Peel and chop the onion, add it to the carrot and leek and continue cooking for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and sweet. Add the bay leaf, the peppercorns and the fish bones, then pour in enough water to cover the bones, at least 1.5 litres, and bring to the boil. Remove any froth with a draining spoon, then leave the stock to simmer for no more than 30 minutes. Drain the stock, you will need 800ml, and discard the bones.

To make the basil purée, put the basil leaves and olive oil in a blender and whizz to a thick, dark green cream, then set aside.

Pour 800ml of stock into a clean pan and bring to the boil before turning down to a simmer. Cut the salmon into 3-4cm cubes and lower into the stock, then almost immediately add the scallops, chopped dill and the mussels. The second the mussels have opened, add the cream, season the soup with a little salt, then ladle into warm bowls. Stir in the basil purée if you are using it, and serve.

Almond, marzipan and berry cakes

My version of the almond-scented cakes Iate in one of Oslo's most popular new-wave bakeries. You will need shallow round cake tins (about 10cm in diameter) or rectangular baking tins (about 8x10cm), lined with paper.

Makes 6
caster sugar 180g
butter 180g
eggs 2, lightly beaten
plain flour 80g
ground almonds 150g
marzipan 100g
assorted berries, blueberries and currants 200g, fresh or frozen
icing sugar

Line six bun tins with paper cases. Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy using a beater. Gradually add the eggs, with the beater moving, then slowly introduce the flour and ground almonds. Once they are incorporated stop the machine immediately. Break the marzipan into small pieces, about 1-2cm in diameter. Stir these into the mixture. Divide the mixture between the baking tins then scatter the fruit over the top of each. Bake for 40 minutes until lightly firm to the touch. Remove from the oven, dust with icing sugar and leave to cool before serving.

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Nigel Slater's Norwegian recipes (2024)
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