A Christmas Tree Gift for the United Kingdom

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Every year Norway sends over a giant Norwegian spruce Christmas tree to their British friends. It is a symbol of Norwegian gratitude towards the United Kingdom for preserving Norwegian liberty. During the Second World War, King Haakon VII escaped to England as the Germans invaded Norway in 1940. This enabled the King to sustain the Norwegian government. The government headquarters was set up in London where the war news was broadcasted in Norwegian, along with messages and information that was vital to the resistance movement in Norway and gave the people hope and inspiration.

The Christmas tree is chosen with great care, usually many years before it is to be used. The foresters provide a lot of care for the tree, making sure it grows big and tall.  They often describe the tree as the ‘Queen of the Forest’.  After the tree has been carefully chopped and prepared, it makes its journey across the pond on a big barge and is eventually set in the middle of Trafalga Square.

A special Lighting of the Tree ceromony is held at the beginning of December. About 10,000 Londoners gather in Trafalga Square to participate in Christmas carols and to see the tree being lit. A nativity scene is placed on the west side of the square, which is dedicated at a special service on the Sunday after the lighting ceremony.

Throughout the Christmas Season Londoners visit Trafalga Square to participate in the celebrations, sing carols and donate to charities.

Norwegian Christmas trees are also given to the cities of Coventry, Newcastle, Sunderland and Edinburgh, and also the Orkney Islands.

What Do You Do with a Basketball Court in the Arctic Winter..?

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…Turn it into a mini ski park, of course!

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The sun won’t make it over the horizon again until the end of January next year.  Even though we have no sun, we can still see the light peeping up over the earth, and with the snow bouncing all the light around, our days can still be pretty light (for an hour or so).  This is the blue light season, and in it, all sorts of white fluffy fun is to be had!

During the darkness, play parks are lit to invite the neighborhood kids out to play.  Soccer fields and basketball courts are turned into whatever the kids can make.  In our backyard, the kids make a ski park.  We have a perfect downhill skiing hill where the kids have made jumps and slides to practice their tricks for the bigger ski slopes at registered hills.  They have been hoarding left over building parts from the new houses in the area since the summer (keeping it in the forest just above), just waiting for the time when there is enough snow.  Now that the snow is here, the kids spend all their time outside sculpting their masterpieces to get the most height and flavour out of their freestyle skiing.  No point bringing their gear inside, they spend more time on the park than anywhere else.

The play park across the road is generally turned into a sledding hill.  Some spaces are turned into forts or caves, and the school sports oval is turned into one big ice skating rink.

There is always plenty of fun to be had in the snow.  Playtime was never so cool!

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Lapskaus with Salty Pork

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Lapskaus is a Norwegian vegetable-based soup.  Home-grown starchy Norwegian potatoes are what make this dish ‘creamy’ as they disintegrate, naturally thickening the soup.  No flour is needed.  There are many different types of lapskaus, each region seems to have its own traditional version, but the most common every-day lapskaus is made with winter vegetables and salty pork off the bone.

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The salty pork is warmed in water for about two hours to cook it and draw some of the salt out.  This process softens it and loosens it up off the bone.  After that the skin can be stripped off easily and the meat can be carved off.

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The pork pieces are added to a pot of diced winter vegetables.  Anything goes but swede, carrots, potatoes are the base and the other usual additions are celery, leek, bay leaf and pepper.  We add anything else we have laying around in the fridge – pumpkin, sweet potato, onion, and this time broccoli and peas.  The pot is filled with water to about half way up the ingredients.  (Some Norwegians use the cooking water from the pork.)

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Let the pot simmer until the starchy vegetables have disintegrated and thickens the soup.  It takes about an hour.  Add in more water if you need to.  If you want the soup thicker, remove the lid near the end of cooking.  The soup is traditionally served with flatbread.

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Read more about different types of lapskaus.

Our own Pumpkin and Apple lapskaus!

Mørketidsboller – A Norwegian Sweet Bun to Celebrate the Start of the Dark Season!

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I have been threatening to do this for years!  It’s about time that a boller is invented to embrace the dark season.  Today was the first time this season that the sun couldn’t make it over the horizon at midday.  The dark season has officially started!

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We have boller everywhere: for the return for the sun, solboller; and the solskinnsboller, the sunshine bun; the midnight sun boller, midnattsolboller; boller for skole, skolebrød; the Bergensboller named after the city Bergen; skillingsboller, or ‘penny bun’, better known as the Cinnamon bun in English; everyday boller – plain, raisins or chocolate; gas station boller normally featuring one of the commercial chocolate bars such as smørbukk (caramel covered in chocolate); Lussekatter, borrowed from the Swedes to celebrate Lucia Day; kanelknuter, or cinnamon nuts, which is a cinnamon dough rolled long and twisted into a round weave; fastelavensboller with cream and powdered sugar for Lent; and then the local’s have invented their own family versions, like Victoria’s, Birgit’s, Emma’s and Jørgen’s.

There is already a ‘dark season boller’ called mørketidsboller, however, it is actually not a bolle, it is a custard filled donut with chocolate icing on top that the shops have made to push sales.  Ours is home-made with real boller dough!

So today, to celebrate the first day of the dark season in Alta, we have made our own ‘mørketidsboller’.  We used a regular skillingsboller recipe and then added raisins, Nugatti (the Norwegian version of Nutella), topped with white icing.  It is very sweet so if you’d like something with a little less buzz then I suggest a scattering of 86% chocolate shavings instead.  In Norway there is also a pre-mix you can buy of sugar, butter and cinnamon, or a chocolate combination.

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Mørketidsboller Recipe

(boller recipe from the skillingsboller)

125 g butter
5oo mls milk
50 g dry yeast
125 g caster sugar
800-900 g sifted white flour

Filling:
Nugatti (or Nutella) or shaved 86% chocolate
Raisins

Topping:
1/2 cup icing sugar
Water
Vanilla essence

Method:

Melt the butter and cool a little.  Put in the milk to warm.  Mix together sugar and flour.  Add in yeast and pour in milk-butter liquid.  Mix with an electric bread beater for 5 minutes.  Put plastic over the bowl and let the dough rise for 40 minutes.

On a lightly floured bench, knead the dough a little.  Roll the dough out to 40cmx40cm.  Scrape a very thin layer of Nugatti all the way to the edges.  Or sprinkle the chocolate shavings.  Sprinkle on the raisins.  Roll the dough up into a log (the Nugatti on the inside).  Slice int0 20 even scrolls.  Lay flat on a baking tray with paper.  (You will likely need two trays.)  Let rise for another 45 minutes.
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Pre-heat oven to 220°C.  Put buns in the lower middle for 10-12 minutes.

Allow to cool.  Mix icing sugar in a small bowl with a few drops of water and a few drops of vanilla essence.  Add a little bit of water at a time if needed to get a ‘drizzle’ texture in the sugar.  Drizzle the icing mixture with a spoon around the spiral.

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This is a very sweet bun and the bread should be fluffy.  Usually the skillingsboller bread turns out a little dryer, hence the icing is a common feature, and the outside forms a light crust, but we’ve found with the Nugatti, the crust stays moist as the chocolate spills out on top and underneath adding moisture and a caramelizing effect from the sugar.  They are really yummy, very strong with the Nugatti – not so much with the 86% shaved chocolate.

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Because this bolle is made with a skillingsbolle dough it is designed to dry out.  Each day it will get a little dryer so you’d want to eat them within three days.  Why did you use a dry bolle dough?  Well, after the first day the boller become perfect to reheat with custard and be used as a quick chocolate Bread and Butter pudding!  Made on Friday for a weekend snack and perfect for Sunday dessert.

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