Hellstrøm is a Norwegian celebrity chef. Think Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay but with much less pep. Every year he has Christmas cooking specials on TV where he invites people to his cabin to cook a Christmas meal with them. The last episode he cooked the famous Norwegian pinnekjøtt dish.
Pinnekjøtt is made from the rib of mutton or lamb and it is dried and salted. It was prepared this way in long tradition so the meat from lamb season in Autumn could last until Christmas. To prepare for cooking, the meat is first soaked in water over night to rehydrate. It is then cooked in a pot of water with a layered stack of birch tree sticks. The meat practically lays on top of the sticks and is steamed through. This is the traditional way of making the dish and is in common usage today. However, this traditional practice has been dashed by Hellstrøm. Has one of Norway’s biggest Christmas traditions been done in?
Hellstrøm says that, firstly, the sticks used in the traditional method do not enhance flavour of the meat at all, as previously thought. Secondly, raising the meat above the water so it is mostly steamed does the meat injustice. The idea of the water is to take out all the saltiness and expose the delicate flavours of the lamb. Steaming the meat only enhances the salty taste and dilutes the lamb flavour.
Hellstrøm soaks his pinnekjøtt meat for at least a day to get rid of as much salt as he can. He refreshes the water often to help the process. He then places the meat straight into the bottom of the pot. He adds a vegetable broth with berries and spices and cooks the meat fully submerged for about an hour. He makes a swede mash and a butter sauce for the meat – the additions need to be a little bland as the flavour of the meat is still very powerful.
I have been making pinnekjøtt the traditional way for the last few years and, I must admit, even when using the best pinnekjøtt on the market, I have found the meat to be always too salty for my liking. I could only get through one little rib before hurling down a jug of water. This year I am happy to try Helstrøm’s method. I certainly think it will suit more delicate palates (and be a little more healthier too).