Scandinavian Kitchen Inspiration: A Handful of Recipes


I’ve been having a great time cooking and baking my way through some Scandinavian Christmas recipes to share with you here. There’s a lot more in store in the coming weeks, so be sure to follow Outside Oslo on Facebook,TwitterPinterest, and the feed! if you don’t already.

In the meantime, as I’ve been getting my bearings back after being sick, I want to share with you some links to delicious-looking Scandinavian recipes I’ve seen recently. Enjoy!

Fyrstekake (Norwegian Cardamom-Almond Tart)
Bon Appétit

Signe Johansen’s Kringle
The Independent

Trine Hahnemann’s Honning Hjerter (Honey Hearts) and other Christmas Cookies
The Observer

Marzipan Biscuits with Walnuts and Chocolate
The Independent

Caraway and Sea Salt Crackers
The Globe and Mail

A Delicious October

Pears and TomatoesCan you believe it’s already the end of October? It’s been a delicious month here at Outside Oslo, so I thought I’d take a moment to revisit the recipes I’ve featured here over the past few weeks. Enjoy!

Scandinavian Autumn Fruit SoupScandinavian Autumn Fruit Soup
An original recipe published in Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine

Kladdkaka VerticalKladdkaka (Swedish Gooey Chocolate Cake)


Surkål (Norwegian Sauerkraut with Caraway)

Lamb with Anchovy Dill Butter

Pan-grilled Lamb Chops with Anchovy-Dill Butter and Brussels Sprouts

Smorrebrod with Anchovy Dill ButterSmørrebrød with Anchovy-Dill Butter, Green Leaf Lettuce, and a Hard-Boiled Egg

Baked Apples with Vanilla CreamAlmond-filled Baked Apple Halves with Vanilla Cream

Orange-Cardamom CaramelsOrange-Cardamom Caramels
An original recipe published in the Norwegian American Weekly

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Scandinavian Light: Almond-Filled Baked Apples with Vanilla Cream

Baked Apples with Vanilla Cream

I’m gearing up for a festive holiday season here at Outside Oslo, and the Christmas baking has already begun! With all the talk we’ll be doing about cakes and tarts, cookies, and candy in the weeks to come, I’m going to take a moment today, before we begin, to share with you an easy and relatively healthy alternative to the rich and decadent foods that the holiday season often brings. The recipe? Almond-filled baked apples with a subtly sweet vanilla cream.

Apples and almonds are two common ingredients in Scandinavian baking, and cookbook author Beatrice Ojakangas has created a simple and rustic recipe that contains so little sugar that I’ve even enjoyed this for breakfast. This isn’t a meet-the-parents sort of dessert, or one that’s meant to impress. Rather, it’s one to enjoy either by yourself or for your family, maybe while reading a book by the fire after dinner, on a weeknight when you’re hoping to treat them to a little something sweet without all the calories and sugar often found in sweets this time of year. True, you could add a little extra sugar and replace the milk with cream. But to me that somehow misses the point. This is weeknight food that highlights the soft, comforting flavors of fall, and is a dessert I’d even feel okay about feeding my little boy.

Baked Apples with Vanilla Cream

Almond-Stuffed Baked Apples with Vanilla Cream
Adapted from Scandinavian Feasts by Beatrice Ojakangas

4 large tart baking apples, such as Granny Smith
1/2 cup blanched almonds, finely chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons potato starch (cornstarch will also work)
3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Core and halve the apples lengthwise and arrange them in a shallow baking pan, face up. Combine almonds, 1/4 cup sugar, and water in a small bowl and stir until they reach a paste-like consistency, then fill the apples with the mixture.

Pour the melted butter over the top of the apple halves, then sprinkle with a mixture of bread crumbs and brown sugar.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the apples are tender but still hold their shape. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, make vanilla cream. Combine egg, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, potato start, and milk in a heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring constantly. Continuing to stir, allow the mixture to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until thickened slightly. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to cool until ready to serve, then stir in the vanilla extract.

Chill cream until ready to serve. Arrange apples in serving bowls and pour cream over around then apples and over the top.

Serves 4-8, depending on whether you want to serve one or two halves per person.

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Nordic Flavor Inspiration: Anchovy-Dill Butter

Lamb with Anchovy Dill Butter

I can still picture the setting–an outdoor patio on the edge of an irregular shaped cove of eateries. I was studying abroad in a little seaside town in Normandy, and the professor had taken us students to the nearby city of Caen for dinner. Dimly illuminated by little lights all around us, the 14 students and our professor sat looking at the menus. One thing caught the professor’s eye: anchovy pizza. No one would split it with him. Except me.

I remember that evening vividly, despite it being over a decade ago. For some reason the idea of eating anchovies on pizza was exotic to that group of Seattle university students studying political science and French in Normandy. It actually surprises me, looking back at it, that I was the only one to eat it. It was good.

Anchovies are one of those foods, briney and bold, that I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid. Like pickled herring, all sorts of olives, and strong cheeses. My parents would regularly order Greek salads from a neighborhood restaurant, and I would take little nibbles of the anchovies, their tiny pin bones prickling my mouth as the salty flavor burst on my tongue. If I found anchovies intriguing as a kid, why not try them on pizza, right?

Some years later, while on our honeymoon in Italy, my husband and I walked into a tiny sliver of a pizza shop in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori to order lunch. I can’t remember our entire order, but I’ll never forget the special pizza they were doing that day: anchovy and zucchini blossom. Much different from the tomato sauce-based pizza I shared with my politcial sceience professor in Normandy, this pizza was based upon a perfect dough, with little more than olive oil, salt, anchovies, and the delicately fragrant little blossoms scattered on top. For the past several years, it has been a summertime tradition for my husband and I to visit the farmers market weekly to hunt for zucchini blossoms. We visit the same farmers week after week, checking in on the status, and excitedly making a beeline to the blossoms as soon as we spot them. We experiment with different recipes for pizza dough, trying to come up with one that will someday form our signature crust, and we build our pizza and eat it, savoring the explosion of flavor that comes with each bite.

Knowing my history with anchovies, you can probably imagine my excitement when I received Scandilicious Baking–Signe Johansen’s new cookbook–in the mail a few weeks ago and found a recipe for anchovy-dill butter. Johansen instructs readers to combine butter with Swedish Abba anchovies, dill, and a little salt until blended, and offers suggestions for how to eat it, such as on fish or potatoes. I decided to try it out, substituting my usual oil-packed anchovies for the Swedish ones and compensating by greatly reducing the quantity of anchovies. Wow, that butter packs a punch. I’m keeping it stored in my freezer right now, and I find myself chipping off a little bit of it to taste every once in a while, like a kid taking a bite of cookie dough while his mom isn’t looking.

Smorrebrod with Anchovy Dill Butter

One of the wonderful things about flavored butters is how they can elevate simple, quality ingredients into something special with absolutely no effort. Having this butter in my freezer has been inspiring me to think creatively about flavors, looking to Scandinavian cuisine, of course, but also to places like Provence, where anchovy is commonly paired with lamb, a surprisingly good flavor combination. Here are some of the creations I’ve enjoyed recently. If you find yourself inspired as well, I’d love to hear your ideas!

Pan-grilled Lamb Chops with Anchovy-Dill Butter and Brussels Sprouts

Rinse and pat dry two bone-in lamb shoulder chops and season both sides with salt. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat for several minutes until hot. Add a little olive oil, and when it begins to shimmer, add the lamb chops. Cook, adjusting the heat between medium and medium-high as necessary, for six minutes, until the lamb has developed a nice brown color. Flip the chops and continue cooking on the other side, adjusting heat as necessary, until the meat reaches a temperature of about 160 degrees for medium. Remove from heat and let rest for a few minutes.

While the lamb is cooking, cut 10 brussels sprouts in half lengthwise, and toss with a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and a teaspoon of kosher salt. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, then add the sprouts, cut side down, cooking them, covered, for five minutes until the flat sides are caramelized. Remove the lid, turn up the heat to medium-high, and cook for several more minutes, stirring frequently, to let the rest of the sprouts start to brown. (This technique is adapted from 101 Cookbooks, and is a surefire way to convert brussels sprouts skeptics into enthusiasts.)

Divide the lamb chops and Brussels sprouts between two plates, and top the lamb with a teaspoon of chilled anchovy butter.* Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill.

Serves two.

Smørrebrød with Anchovy-Dill Butter, Green Leaf Lettuce, and a Hard-Boiled Egg

Toast a slice of bread. While the bread is still hot, smear a little chilled anchovy-dill butter* on top, covering the surface of the bread as the butter melts. Cover with slices of crisp green leaf lettuce, then arrange a sliced hard-boiled egg and a sprig of dill on top.

Serves one, but can be easily multiplied to serve however many you want.

*To make the anchovy butter, whirl butter, anchovies–Abba anchovies or oil-packed–and dill in a food processor until combined, adjusting quantities until you have a flavor profile that suits your tastes. Start light with the anchovies and dill, because their flavors are strong.

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Rainy Night Dinner: Norwegian Sauerkraut (Surkål)


I don’t know whether it’s a sort of crunchy pride not unlike machismo or whether it has something to do with apathy and resignation to the rain, but true Seattleites tend to balk at using umbrellas.

Until a few years ago, the only ones I had were souvenirs from vacations–cheap or touristy emergency purchases to help me stay dry during unexpected rainstorms away from home. After living in Seattle for long enough (my whole life), however, I decided that it was time to break away from the norm and buy an umbrella I would actually use.

I’m proud to say I managed to find a beauty–one that’s chic enough to almost make me hope for rain. Almost. With an oversized canopy and a pretty wooden handle, opening it as I step out into the rain is always a treat.

Rain on LeavesThe rainy season has officially begun here in Seattle. It seemed to start on Friday evening, just as my son and I were walking to the car after a book signing with Aida Mollenkamp at Book Larder in Fremont. It continued today, with a sky so clouded that the view from my bedroom of the hills not too far in the distance was invisible.

We had such a beautiful summer and early fall that I forgot what it feels like to live in a rainy city: persistent raindrops poking me all over as I rush back inside to find my umbrella, soggy cuffs smearing water on the hardwood floors, and cold, damp jeans sticking to my legs.

On the other hand, rainy days are perfect for making cold-weather food, the kind of dishes that make you feel warm and cozy just eating them. I didn’t know when I started cooking a pot of Norwegian sauerkraut on Friday that we were entering a period of rain.

I had been thinking about my late Grandma Agny’s surkål, a Norwegian sauerkraut that my grandmother always made for special dinners, and decided to try my hand at it. The recipe is about as simple as can be, requiring the cook only to shred the cabbage, then simmer the handful of ingredients together in a large pot for about an hour and a half. It’s extremely economical, as well, as cabbage feeds a crowd for only a couple of dollars.

CabbageGrandma published her recipe in an old church cookbook, and the directions are limited to three sentences, 36 words:

Shred cabbage; peel and shred apple(s). Put butter in saucepan; mix all ingredients together in saucepan and cook over low heat until color darkens. Serve in a nice looking dish; garnish with apple wedges and parsley.

I love the way that Grandma kept details to a minimum, except when it came to how to serve the dish. That, to her, was worth a third of the small recipe, which hints back at her career in hospitality. I can picture Grandma’s surkål on the table so many years ago in a gold-rimmed porcelain or china serving dish and garnished with bright green curly-leaf parsley chopped, I imagine, by hand. She would have carefully placed the parsley onto the bland-colored caraway-flecked sauerkraut, taking care to present us with an attractive and appetizing dish.

My husband and I ate a late dinner of surkål and medisterkaker–Norwegian pork meatballs–after the book signing on Friday night, and it was the perfect meal to warm us up on a chilly, damp evening. Now that I’ve become reaquainted with these two welcoming Norwegian foods, they will be autumn and winter mainstays at our house.


Agny Danielsen’s Surkål

750 grams cabbage
1 or 2 apples, cored
75 grams butter
1/2 liter distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon caraway
2 teaspoons salt
Curly-leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish

Shred the cabbage using the slicing disc of a food processor, then switch to the shredding disk to shred the apple (it’s okay to leave the skin on).

Melt butter in a large, heavy pot, then add remaining ingredients (except parsley) and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 90 minutes, until the cabbage is soft and has darkened and the vinegar has reduced and softened in flavor. You may need to increase the heat near the end to finish reducing the vinegar.

Remove from the heat and, as Grandma Agny indicated, “Serve in a nice looking dish; garnish with apple wedges and parsley.”

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Cooking Up the Past

In the years since I started Outside Oslo, I’ve taken not only to cooking Scandinavian food in general but also to preparing some of my family’s old recipes. When it comes to learning about my family’s history, genealogy seems a bit daunting, at least at the moment, but preserving memories and history through food just requires some enjoyable time spent in the kitchen. I wrote about my experience in my latest column in the Norwegian American Weekly, and included a recipe for Grandma Agny’s Bryte Havrekaka (oatmeal cookies).

Grandma Agny–my dad’s mom–gave few recipes to us. Among those I wish I had are her raspberry jam, various cookie recipes–including the one I’m documenting the search for here–and rice pudding. I have found a few recipes, however, in an old church cookbook, including one for Bryte Havrekaka. With just four ingredients–oatmeal, sugar, butter, and an egg–these cookies are much different from the chewier, denser American oatmeal cookies. These are at once decadent and delicate, with the flavors of the oats and the butter being allowed to shine. Click over to the Weekly for the story and recipe!

Cod in mustard sauce with pickled beets

When it comes to special events, what menu items come to mind? Dry-aged steak grilled to perfection? Truffles? Foie grasor another rich and fancy hors d’oeuvres? I’m guessing that cod, beets, bacon, and eggs don’t make the list. Don’t be deceived, however; this meal I’m about to share with you is something remarkable.

The other day I was looking for something to serve for dinner. We were having my father-in-law over while my mother-in-law was out of town. Cod was going to be the centerpiece of the meal, but I needed to come up with the rest of the menu. Flipping through a Scandinavian cookbook, I found a recipe for “Cod with mustard sauce and condiments.” On the page next to it was a beautiful spread of five distinct food items arranged artfully on a plain white plate: cod with a pale mustard-dotted sauce, fingerling potatoes, half of a medium-boiled egg, pickled beets, and crispy diced bacon. I decided to give it a try, swapping out the original pickled beets, which required a week of marinating, with a quick version that could be made the same evening, and adding some sautéed beet greens.

The recipes are simplicity at its best, with each item prepared simply and allowed to shine. The dinner is a composition of Scandinavian flavors that lend themselves perfectly to the hospitality that corner of the world has so perfected.

Everyone loved the meal, especially my Scandinavian-born father-in-law. I’ll be keeping this recipe around for the future.

Cod with Mustard Sauce and Condiments
Adapted from The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann

This recipe, as detailed below, will serve four people, with leftover beets, potatoes, and mustard sauce. Feel free to increase the quantity of fish as needed to serve more people.

24 oz cod fillets
Salt and pepper
1 bag fingerling potatoes, boiled in salted water until tender, and kept warm until ready to serve
4 medium-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half (these can be prepared in advance and served cold or room temperature)
4 slices thick-cut bacon, preferably uncured, diced and pan-fried until crispy
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
Quick pickled beets (recipe follows)
Sautéed beet greens (recipe follows)

Prepare all condiments except mustard sauce in advance.

Season the cod with salt and pepper and poach in a large pan with water until just cooked through. Reserve 1 3/4 cups of the water, then cover the cod to keep warm until ready to serve.

To make the mustard sauce, melt butter over low heat in a small pan. Add the flour and stir constantly until it’s incorporated and forms a smooth paste. Gradually add the reserved cooking liquid from the cod, stirring constantly and making sure that no lumps form. When you have a smooth liquid, add the cream and mustard and continue to stir until the sauce starts to reach a boil. Remove from heat and taste to see if it needs any salt or pepper–this will depend on how seasoned the reserved water from the cod was.

To serve, arrange all the condiments on a plate around the cod as shown in the photo above, and spoon the sauce over the cod.

Quick Pickled Beets
6 medium-large beets, greens reserved for the following recipe
2 cups red wine vinegar
2 medium red onions, cut into halves and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
3 star anise
10 peppercorns

Trim the beets by cutting off the stems, but make sure to leave the thin stem and the very end of the stalks–these will help seal in the nutrients when cooking. Cook the beats in a pressure cooker, according to the cooker’s instructions. (Mine says to place beets on the trivet with a half cup of water in the pressure cooker and bring to a boil, then add lid and cook at the second red line for 13 to 16 minutes. Cool using the quick release or cold water method.) When the beets are cooked, set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the brine. Put the red wine vinegar, onions, sugar, star anise, and peppercorns in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the onions have softened slightly, about 6-7 minutes.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and the very end of the stalks. The skins will come off very easily–just hold the beet in one hand and lightly pull the skin off with the other hand. Cut each beet in half lengthwise and then into 1/4-inch slices.

Place beets in a bowl, and pour the onions and brine over them and stir. Allow to marinate for at least a half an hour. These should keep for about a week.

Sautéed Beet Greens
Beet greens (use the greens from the pickled beets)
Olive oil
1 clove garlic

Heat olive oil in a pan and add garlic, sautéing briefly, then add beet greens and cook until tender.

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Last-minute food ideas for Christmas

I’m spending a little time on this quiet Friday afternoon thinking about what to make for a few special Christmas meals in the next couple of days. If you, like me, are also looking for last-minute ideas, here are a few ideas from past posts on Outside Oslo.

Bisp and Trondheim soup – guest post from The Leftover Queen

Lussekatter, pepparkakor, Christmas ham, and knäck – guest post from Anne’s Food

Norwegian butter cookies – a simple cookie that can be shaped in many ways

Sugared cranberries – to add a little sparkle to your holiday table

Also, check out Outside Oslo’s recipe page for a complete list of recipes.

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Egg noodle doop (A guest post on Suzan Colón’s blog)

Grandpa M. and me many years ago.

Some of my most treasured possessions from my relatives are their recipes. Whether they’re handwritten in Grandma H.’s spiral-bound handwritten collection, published in a church cookbook, or typed and saved on my computer, each recipe represents special times spent with loved ones throughout the years. For those of us who love food, meals conjure up memories. My mom and I are in the process of putting together a family history through recipes, so I was thrilled when author Suzan Colón, who wrote “Cherries in Winter: My Family’s Recipe for Hope in Hard Times,” gave me the opportunity to tell the story behind one of them on her blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

It was late summer 1992. Grandpa M. had just passed away. T-boned while driving through an intersection. Months in a coma. Gone.

On that September afternoon—in the church where two generations of my family had worshipped God and relatives had gotten married—we all gathered in the steel blue sanctuary to say goodbye.

When you’re ten years old, things hit you in a peculiar way. You store away the details in your memory—little things like the silly nickname you gave your grandfather and the way you used to lock him out of the house and giggle while he pretended to not see you hiding inside. You remember a seven-syllable medical term you can’t define–subdural hematoma–and the quiet helium confidence you felt as you walked up the blue carpeted stairs to give a eulogy at your grandfather’s funeral.

“What I’ll miss about Grandpa was his hot dish.”

What a strange, insensitive little girl, those who didn’t know me must have thought. But in a way that’s inexplicable to those of us who are no longer children, that was the most evocative–and, in a way, profound–honor I could give my beloved grandfather.

You can read the rest of the post and find out what made Grandpa’s hot dish–or egg noodle doop, as he called it–special at Then, if you’re willing, please share your food-related family memories in the comments below–I’d love to read them!

The search for a lost recipe begins

I’m on a mission to recreate an old Grandma D. classic. When she died nearly two years ago, most of her recipes died with her, including a Scandinavian butter cookie that I grew up eating each year during Christmastime. A cookie shaped into parallelogram, with horizontal ridges made from the tips of fork tines, these cookies were a sign of the holiday season in our family.

Finding a similar recipe requires detective work. The clues are few, the evidence intangible.

What were the cookies originally called? The family doesn’t know. Were they a classic Norwegian cookie? Most likely, if I know anything about Grandma. Further complicating the search, I’ve been told that the parallelogram was Grandma’s artistic touch for an otherwise traditional cookie.

Where does that leave me? With having to bake–and taste–my way through an assortment of Scandinavian butter cookies until I find one that’s close.

The resources are endless. From books like The Great Scandinavian Baking Book to the countless recipes online, I’m sure to find a similar recipe somewhere along the line. Will you stick with me through the process?

Here’s my first attempt, a simple recipe called “Norwegian Butter Cookies” from Gourmet. (Note: As I bake, I’m searching for a flavor rather than a shape; once I have a few recipes in the running, I’ll recreate them using Grandma’s striped parallelogram shape and give them a side-by-side taste test.)

The verdict? These cookies are good–really good, in fact. With a satisfyingly crisp crunch, these seemingly unassuming cookies would go perfectly with a cup of afternoon tea or a glass of cold milk at the end of a long day. The flavor isn’t quite what I was hoping to find, though, and the texture may be a little too crisp–at least on the first day–for Grandma’s old cookies. So I need to keep baking. Maybe these will come back, with a little flavor tweaking, for round two, but only time–and more tasting–will tell.

Do you have any ideas? Whether it’s the name of a traditional cookie or a recipe that you think might be similar, I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, here’s the first recipe.

Norwegian Butter Cookies
Adapted from Gourmet (March 1983, reprinted in December 2001), based on a recipe from Carrie Young

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Rounded 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and extracts at moderately high speed for about 3 minutes. You want it to turn pale and fluffy, like whipped butter. Add the egg and continue to beat until well combined.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt, then add to the butter mixture, mixing at low speed just until incorporated.

Form dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place 3 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the back of a fork, make a crosshatch pattern on each cookie, flattening them to about 1/3 to 1/2 thick.*

Working in batches, bake cookies on the middle rack of the oven until the edges turn golden. Depending on the thickness of the cookies, this may take up to 17 minutes, but start checking after 12–you want them to be just golden around the edges, not brown. Remove the cookies from the baking sheet and let them cool on a rack.

Yields approximately 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

*If you have a cookie press, this may be a good time to use it. You’ll find instructions for making these cookies with a cookie press online at