Christmas marzipan Norwegian style

22nd December 



This is my IG post from today,
feeling a bit under the weather :(
Almonds feature heavily in the Norwegian kitchen and never more so than at Christmas time.  Every year we make our own marzipan and those of you regular to this blog will know we have to make them in fruit shapes, it's a family tradition.

This year I chose to use natural food dyes and I must admit to being a little disappointed.  The colours were obviously not as bright as artificial colourings but the difference was staggering, especially with the red dye.  In fact we were so unimpressed that we ended up adding far too much of the colour that it altered the taste of the marzipan.  We ended up having to throw that section away, what a waste!  On closer inspection of the bottle the red food dye was made up from paprika and yes, we could taste that on our marzipan.  I love a bit of spice in my food, but this was not a good combo.  So our red apples are muted in colour this year and we did not even bother with making strawberries and very sad we are too.  It was therefore doubly sad when the yellow and dulled red colours did not mix to produce a wonderful orange colour, so we have no oranges this year either.  That 'orange' colour looked very much like some un mentionable dog mess and so too went the way of the bin.  Oh dear...





Not very red marzipan

The red natural food dye up against my red vase


...but we do have marzipan so not all is lost, just a lesson learnt.

Marzipan

To make the marzipan, I usually grind my own almonds but only after I have blanched them.  You can speed this process up in a number of ways 1) buy ground almonds, although I do not think for some reason this is quite the same, must be the Scandi snob in me, it does produce perfectly good results, so ignore my comments! 2) buy blanched almonds 3) buy ready made marzipan ;)

I tend to use 500g almonds and 500g icing sugar.  Mix the ground almonds and icing sugar well and then slowly add egg white.  Depending on the size of egg you will need 1-2 egg whites.  You want the mixture to come together and form a ball but not be sticky.  Remember if adding food dye, that too will add to the wetness of the dough.

Once the marzipan is made we divide it into the number of colours we wish to use and also leave some plain in colour. 

Make various shaped fruits and also you can cut some shapes out with the smallest cookie cutters you have  too.  Melted chocolate and marzipan are a good combination and often we do this too.

Chocolate covered marzipan


Here are this years contribution to our Christmas table...

We always make the marzipan and
then divide it up into sections for different colour dyes

Marzipan being shaped into fruit

The first plate of marzipan is ready

♥  We are now in Christmas week, hope all is going according to plan for you, as long as this cold that is threatening to set in disappears, all will be well this end, I hope?! 

Christmas in London


21st December

We are still in London, so writing this post again on the hoof and filling up on Christmas spirit. The Albert Hall was a huge success last night, see yesterday's blog post here  And today we Christmas shop with the added bonus this year of also following the Paddington bear trail. Fifty bear statues to be found, so far we have spotted a couple and hope to add many more throughout the day. 

Liam Gallagher designed this Paddington
wearing a green parker
 


John Hurt designed the marmalade
influenced coat for this Paddington


As always there are lots of twinkly lights and those in Carnaby Street are modern and fun...

Headphone and moustaches made us giggle

Oxford street lights were at first a disappointment but I confess to now actually liking their simplicity and end en mass do look spectacular. 


Bright lights, big city springs to mind

I love that the shops will not be outdone and both the department stores Debenhans and John Lewis filled their walls with white lights, warm white and ice white. Both equally stunning. 


I have learnt over the years to always look up in cities

Side street too in London light up and you really need to look all sound to make sure nothing is missed. 


Peacock tails and feathers

Covent Garden has the largest baubles I have ever seen, they are in fact the same decorations they had last year which pleases me and they have a beautiful gigantic silver deer statue. 

Covent Garden never ceases to impress

We will continue today soaking up the spirit, ticking off the Paddington's we see and hopefully competing our Christmas shopping. Never forgetting that today is the last Sunday in advent and tonight on our return home we will light that fourth candle. 

 

For those of you wondering , I have not picked up my crochet hook or blanket since the last post on it a week ago. I knew this week would be otherwise occupied. I am still hopeful to begin the border and complete it by the new year?!? Watch this space!  Hope the last few days of Christmas preparation go according to plan for you all. Are you calm or stressed out about it all?



❤️  I can almost smell Christmas from here...  ❤️



Christmas sing a long

20th December

I am writing this blog post on the hoof so to speak so I do not think I can add captions to photographs or chance the font, please excuse. I will try to rectify this later. 

I have mentioned several time the importance to me of tradition at Christmas, that of keeping old ones and introducing new ones.  Two years ago we began at the behest of Mr H to ensure we all were given a jolly good dose of Christmas spirit the week end before Christmas. The children no longer perform carols at school, we all work right up I till Christmas and so it was felt a big push the week end before would bring us altogether in a Christmassy feel. It works and we love it. 

The weekend before Christmas we have started to come together in London and descend upon the beautiful round iconic building, that of the Royal Albert Hall.  



If you have not been and you get the opportunity you really should try. It is just splendid. The sheer size of it set in the middle of London, the intricate carvings on the outside, the beautiful interior decor not to mention the outstanding acoustics within, perfect for musical endeavours. 



Today will be our  third visit for the Christmas Sing a Long, so popular, it sells out tickets very fast and people are coached in from all over the UK on day trips for it.  Christmas hat wearing is not compulsory but it might as well be, everyone wears one.  The compare and conductor of the orchestra and audience again will be Jonathan Cohen who unwittingly wears an extra event Christmas waistcoat, usually made every year by the same audience fan. It is really a jolly happy, clap you hands, sing your heat out sort of day.  Sounds twee, but taken in the correct spirit it is meant, even our teenager ask during the summer months if we have purchased our tickets yet, set the spirit and happy tone for the festive season.



Today we will be singing our hearts out and being right royally entertained. I hope you too have a fabulous Saturday.  


Tree festival

19th December

I love real Christmas trees and I could not contemplate ever having one that was not real. I know all the arguments as to why artificial maybe better but for me they are not. End of. I do however concur that some artificial trees are wonderful and can be the most amazingly dressed trees around. They are symmetrical and elegant but they are not real so do not do it for me. Sorry. 

In Norway of course you can buy your Christmas trees as we do here in the UK, in garden centres, super markets and in random pop up places but for many going out to hunt for the perfect tree in the forest and to chop it down and bring it back home through the crisp white snow is part of Christmas. In nostalgic rose tinted glasses view I would tell you that most Norwegians decorate their tree either on Lille Jul Aften (December 23rd to you and me) or on Jul Aften itself. But now times are changing and many put their tree up before then. 

Here in our house we have become Anglicized a little bit and put up our tree any day after the 20th December. Except this year we have put it up earlier so that mamma who is visiting us before Christmas can decorate the tree with us, these moments are for family and we wanted mamma with us too.

From the very first moment I had my own home the tree decorations had to be home made, I am sure this stems from my Norwegian roots as I remember many a Christmas with mamma making woven paper heart bags to put on the tree full of nuts and raisins.  Our tree for the past 22 years has had home made salt dough red painted hearts, and I could not now think of our tree without them. Follow the link to the salt dough recipe we use for our tree... here .  You will need to scroll down half way through the post and find TROLLDEIG, Norwegian for salt dough.  Make it, it's such fun and they will last for years.   This year. lots has been turned up on it's head for us in our household, but one of the nice things is that our daughter has started to collect her own Christmas baubles.  That of glass.  These will be added to each year, can you imagine buying a whole trees worth in one go, way too expensive.  But somehow with friends and family enjoying her wanting to do this she has already amassed 11 beautiful baubles.  these will leave our home when she does, I'm trying not to think about it; the loss of these new glass baubles of our daughter leaving home?  So for the first time, we have bought baubles on our tree too, I admit they look elegant and beautiful, but I think it the combination of home crafted and clear glass that is wonderful.
 
We always have salt dough red hearts on our tree,
homemade of course


As we have moved everything around in our house, the tree is actually in a different room for the first time, I felt something was missing in the front room and decided we needed to be decadent and add in a second tree!  This really I felt was extravagant but a wonderful necessity and it was here that my Arne and Carlos knitted baubles found their home this year.  Although I now realise I need more of them...
 
 
Potted Christmas tree with knitted Arne and Carlos baubles
 
 
Tree festival
 
I have obviously been walking around in the last few years in my own Christmas bubble as I am only now joining in on the Christmas tree festival band wagon and WOW is all I can say.  I have not been able to find the origins of why tree festivals began, but certainly in our market town, it has brought the masses into church and created money both for charity and the church itself.  I happened to be in town and had 10 minutes spare, seeing the huge sewn sign (who could resist that) I wondered in.  My 10 minutes spare led to an hour walking round the church and a cup of tea to boot.  Each tree had been decorated by various groups including local pre school, s
primary and secondary school, scouts, brownies and local business, not to mention the WI as well.  All trees were decorated to a Christmas carol title and we were given a sheet on entry and had to try and match the tree to the carol.  A lovely way to spend an hour in an other wise busy month.  I shall look out for it next year and take the family along too.
 
 
 
Yearly tree festival in the market town

Can you match the carol to the correct tree?
 
 
Here are the carols that were represented at the church, not all are photographed, so your challenge is slightly harder, have fun, let me know how you managed!
 
Mary’s Boy Child • The Cherry Tree • Away in a Manger • Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree • Good King Wenceslas • Hark the Herald Angels Sing • Jingle Bells • O Little Town of Bethlehem • Once in Royal David’s City • The First Noel • The Holly and the Ivy • The 12 days of Christmas • We Three Kings of Orient are • While Shepherds Watched • White Christmas • Santa Claus is Coming to Town • All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth • Let it snow, let it snow • Little Drummer Boy • Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer • We wish you a Merry Christmas • A Christmas Carol by Dickens • A Spaceman came travelling
 
















 
 
Are you a  die hard and your tree looks the same every year, or are you someone who buys new colours for the tree each year?  Do you have a special bauble or precious ornaments for the tree.  It's such a personal thing tree decorating.
 
♥  I would love to know about you and your tree ...  ♥
 


 

Kransekake Norwegian Celebration cake

18th December

We love all things sweet in this house and despite baking so much in the lead up to Christmas we do not eat that much of it ourselves. The majority of that made is plied on visitors or given away as gifts. We will not be rolling out of the house quite yet. That said, Norwegians do know how to make an incredibly sweet celebration cake and I am yet to find anyone who doesn't like it, as long as they can tolerate nuts.  The cake in question ~ Kransekake 

To see the history of kransekake and the full recipe and instructions, follow my post on it from last year, you can find it here

I was asked a question as to how to make a kransekake if one did not have the specialist equipment used. Well, it is possible just not quite as easy. 

As you can see from the photographs a kransekake is made up of 18 rings placed on top of each other. I have ring moulds for this but if you do not,  you need to draw consentric circles on grease proof paper and then roll your mixture into long thin sausages and place in the marked circles. See below photograph hopefully which may explain it visually better than my written word. 


Draw ever decreasing circle for the layers of the kransekake



Make sure to leave space between the rings
as it will swell a little in baking


I made only six rings in this way as an example to show you. My son is delighted as now he will share this with his friends. 


An example of 6 rings made without
specialist kransekake equipment


Icing should be zig zagged



Mini crackers, ribbon and flags are often
seen as decoration, but you can do whatever
you like on the kransekake


I did  however have my first EVER failure with kransekake this week and so I shall be making another sometime between now and Christmas. I had the oven temperature too high by mistake which meant that the mixture whilst in the oven swelled up too quickly and too much. Thus on completion of baking the rings were much more swollen than normal and on closer inspection were hollow, as all the mixture went into the engage red size if the rings!  It tastes fine but it's not as it should be and does not look as magnificent as usual. Take a look...


Easy storage and transportation box
for the kransekake



Can you see how hollow this one has become,
this is NOT how it should look. 
Lesson learnt, do not have oven temperature too high!!


Couldn't lift off the bottom tings to ice
them individually, hence the messy icing. 
Am very embarrassed!


Do pop over to last years post on kransekake and see his it should be please

Just a week to go till the big day. I am so excited. Keep well and thank you to everyone who has commented. I love having a two way flow of words with you. Brings the blog alive. Thank you ❤️

Norwegian buffet ~ sylte

17th December 

I love baking and making cookies, I enjoy
Sytle, Norwegian cold cut of meat
cake making and playing with different desserts BUT we cannot live on sweet alone.  I felt it time to share some traditional savoury Norwegian dishes with you and today the first one up would be perfect for a Boxing Day buffet, that is when we are going to be eating our pressed herb pork roll, or as they say in one word in Norwegian: sylte 





Sytle
A note on timing:
The pork needs to cook for two hours before pressing for 24 hours and then leaving in brine to soak until needed.


You will need:

pork belly without bone
salt
pepper
ginger
whole cloves  
string
a press if you have one, if not a couple of loaf tins and heavy weights



METHOD 1

1  If the piece of meat has too much fat on the outer edge, trim it down a bit.

2  Boil in water with 2 tbsp. salt in per 1 litre used.  Fast boil for five minutes, thereafter simmer for two hours.



Meat ready to boil and simmer for 2 hours

  3  Remove meat from the water and leave to cool for about 20 minutes.


Meat ready for a rub of spices


4  Rub in a generous amount of salt, pepper and ginger into the meat, these flavours are important so do not be stingy.
 

Salt, pepper and ginger rubbed in

5  This next bit may require two sets of hands.  Roll the meat up as tight as you possibly can into a roll shape and tie string around it.  you will need to do this a few times to hold the roll in shape.

 

Roll the meat as tightly as you can



Add string to secure the meat

6  Cover the rolled meat in a clean old tea towel as tightly as possible.


Cover tightly in a clean old tea towel

7  Place the meat in the press if you have one for 24 hours.  If not place the meat in a loaf tine, with a second tin pressed down on top of it and weighted down with as much weight as possible.  Remember we are trying to 'press' the meat.

 

Leave to press for 24 hours

8  After 24 hours remove the meat from the tea towel and it should now look very squashed.  This is good.  Place whole cloves into the skin of it to increase flavour.  


Once pressed the meat should look flattened


Push in whole cloves into the skin for added flavour

At this point the meat could be sliced and used as cold cut, or alternatively to keep it for a while in a container full of brine  (for each litre of water used add 75 g salt plus 2 bay leaves regardless of the amount of water, boil the water until the salt has dissolved, allow to cool before adding in the meat.) When ready to use, remove the meat from the brine, pat dry as use as normal.  The meat can stay in the brine for up to 14 days.  you do need to keep checking the water daily, should it turn white, then change the brine for fresh brine water.

METHOD 2  -  I will do this next time.

Instead of boiling the meat whole, the less messy option would be to rub in the spices and salt immediately and roll up the meat with string BEFORE boiling and simmering for 2 hours. 



Sytle sitting in brine ready to be eaten at the Boxing Day buffet

♥  What do you eat on Boxing Day?