One of Norway’s most traditional dishes is made from an ingredient that doesn’t grow anywhere near Norway: Rice!

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Rice porridge or “risgrøt” is normally a dessert in other countries, but in Norway it is the main dish on Saturday dinner tables. Risgrøt is enjoyed with a generous topping of cinnamon and sugar, with a spoonful of butter in the centre (the “buttereye”), Many people enjoy this dish with a side of cured meats and bread rolls. Our family prefers to use brown sugar because of the stronger flavour (and health factor, according to Farmor).

At Christmas, Norwegian risgrøt has a special tradition. In olden days, people used to put a bowl of grøt outside for the barn gnome on Christmas Eve, to reward him for tending the farm animals and buildings. If the gnome didn’t get his grøt (and beer), he would put a terrible curse on the livestock!

These days, Norwegians usually eat the Christmas grøt themselves, although they like to save some for Julenissen (Santa). The Christmas grøt has one special ingredient in the pot: A peeled almond. Whoever is lucky enough to get the almond in their portion gets a special prize. This is usually a marzipan pig, but sometimes the prize is simply to do the dishes!

Feeling hungry yet? Try the recipe below. Recipes may vary from one region to the next, but this one is the basic method:

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Basic risgrøt

(Serves 4 – portion may be doubled but reduce the liquid slightly)

You need:

  • 4 dl (13.5 fl.oz) water
  • 1 1/2 dl (5 fl.oz) porridge rice (Risotto rice will do)
  • 1 litre (1 quart) milk – give or take
  • 1 tsp salt
  • vanilla (optional)
  • 1 peeled almond (Christmas only)

How to do it:

You will need a good, heavy pot with a tight lid. Boil the rice in water for about 10 minutes or until soft. Add the milk and simmer with lid until the porridge is thick and creamy. Stir occasionally to keep the porridge from sticking to the pot. Stir in the salt near the end. Serve in a deep plate and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, then top it off with a dab of dairy butter.

Enjoy!