Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Probably one of the best ways to get to know a culture different from your own is through food. I have too many things to say about spending time abroad in Norway to fit into one post or even a multitude of posts, and if I did it probably wouldn't make much sense (except perhaps to a fellow expat) as it still oscillates between being one of the most exhilarating, one the saddest, one of the most memorable and at the same time one of the strangest experiences of my life.
However, one thing which surprised me when I came back was how much I missed the food. We spent more than a year there, and however strange it appeared at first, we got quite used to the food. And liked it. A lot. From the fresh shrimp boiled in sea water sold by the fishermen at the Oslo harbor,
to raisin buns or boller sold at newsstands, to Tine brand dairy products, to smoked salmon and various other smoked fish, to makrell and tomato sauce paste sold in toothpaste-shaped tubes.
And fish cakes.
Fish cakes or fiskekaker (pronounced fis-kah-KAH-kehr) were sold at cafes and were available ready-made at supermarkets. They are extremely versatile. You can pop one in your mouth for a quick snack. You can make an open sandwich with one or two of them. You can have them for breakfast with eggs, or you can have them for dinner with gravy and potatoes.
The problem is, of course, that you can't get this food anywhere here. Ikea has a shrimp and cheese tube paste, or some variation thereof, which doesn't really approximate makrell in tomato sauce. And besides, it's Swedish. So the second time we came back to visit Norway, we went to the store and bought all of the above things, except the shrimp as it was too late in the season.
Knowing that it might be a while before we have it all again, we came back with a few souvenirs: a Norwegian version of monopoly with Oslo city street names (for a cool price of $100), and a cookbook of modern Norwegian cuisine. I have adapted the recipe from it for the fish cakes here, adjusted to taste and ingredients as the recipe called for quite a lot more milk (and also translated, as the book is in Norwegian).
Adapted from: Tom Victor Gausdal og Ole Martin Alfsen, Familiekokeboka.
Fiskekaker, Norwegian Fish Cakes
(Makes about 6 fish cakes)
You will need:
1 lb white fish fillets (such as cod or haddock)
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg white
1 1/2 tbsp corn starch
1/2 to 1 cup ice-cold milk, more if needed
1 tbsp finely chopped chives (optional)
1-2 tbsp canola oil for frying
1. Pat the fillets dry with paper towels and slice into large chunks. Grind the chunks in a food processor. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, the egg white, and corn starch and process until blended. Then, with the food processor working on low speed, slowly pour a portion of the milk through the chute. Continue adding the milk until the mixture has a texture of a moist paste, using as much milk as it can absorb without becoming too runny (you should be able to form it into a fish cake, even if a sloppy one; they will firm up when fried). Add the chives and process to mix. Place the mixture into a bowl.
2. Heat canola oil in a large pan on medium heat. Using your hands, form the mixture into slightly flattened balls (about 2-3 inches wide) and add them to the pan. Fry the cakes until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Serve and enjoy.