After landing in Tromso in northern Norway, I was to go on a long ferry ride to reach my final destination, Skjervoy. This was a huge ferry service named 'Hurtigruten' where tourists are known to spend a few days on board traveling along the west coast of Norway watching the northern lights in the winter and whales thorough out the year, if they get lucky. I was all set to witness the northern lights and was eagerly looking forward to a decent meal after the rather insipid meals on long flights.
Above - Hurtigruten and my sumptuous three course meal onboard
The food served on board this ferry was to highlight the produce from northern Norway. The first course was a warm carrot soup served with bits of crispy cured ham. The salty and crisp bits of ham was a lovely garnish to the soup and highlighted the sweetness of the carrots. It was followed by a course of baked arctic char (a close relative of salmon and lake trout) with pickled vegetables (mostly fennel), roasted beetroot, potatoes and a mustard sauce. The Arctic char had been sourced from a nearby port that very morning. The fish was cooked just right and the fennel along with the mustard sauce rounded off the dish very well. For dessert, it was cloudberry from the local region served with sour cream and a crisp and crumbly biscuit. Followed by dinner there was a magnificent display of the northern lights in the sky for me to witness and enjoy for the first time in my life. It was indeed a challenging task to be out on the deck of the ferry to capture the northern lights in my camera to bring back home the images and share with my family. The night was cold and the wind was howling!!!
I arrived at my friend's village in the middle of that night and the next 3 days were filled with memorable meals from the Norwegian and Indian frontiers. It is amazing to have access to such good produce in near zero weather conditions and with just the right planning, I pulled off a couple of great Indian dishes for my special friends too. My friend Elna, grew up in the sleepy seaside village of Skjervoy in the north of Norway, settled in Lillesand in the south of Norway but spent a good part of the last 20 years in Tirupur, South of India. I have known her for 20 years now and I must say that she is definitely one-of-a-kind, in a very nice way.
Skjervoy is a beautiful little island along the north coast of Norway, well north of the arctic circle. When Elna was a little girl growing up in this village in the 1950s and 60s, the only way to the mainland was by boat. But today, they have a single lane bridge that connects Skjervoy to another island which in turn is connected to the mainland by a tunnel that goes under the seabed. The population of the island of Skjervoy today is about 2000 and it is largely comprised of the fishing community and a few pensioners.
Day or night, east or west - stunning views
I made sure that Elna's fridge is stocked up with Salmon, especially smoked salmon. I was determined to eat as much salmon as possible on this trip, as we do not have access to this lovely fish in India. My lunches were a few slivers of smoked salmon with a green salad and a soft local bread for the next 3 days. The dinners were all home-cooked and very interesting.
Elna's younger son, Thore is a trained chef but had to give up his career due to skin allergies caused from handling fresh food. He is now a full-time fisherman in the northern waters of Norway but still can thankfully whip up delicious dinners while wearing rubber gloves during prep time. For my first dinner in Skjervoy, he cooked a delicious meal of baked salmon in a hollandaise-like sauce along with spaghetti. After devouring a large piece of salmon, I was treated to fresh strawberries (quite unusual for this time of the year as I was told) with cream. To add to this delightful meal, I was also treated to another fantastic display of northern lights right over the village and it looked splendid in spite of the lights from the village.
The next day, I decided to cook them an authentic Indian dinner and managed to serve a near original Rogan Josh cooked with the local lamb and served it with rice and a cauliflower subzi. I had taken a few Indian spices along with me and they came in handy with the Indian dishes I cooked in my Norwegian friend's kitchen. As I was in Norway during Diwali, I thought it was only appropriate to take some Indian sweets for Elna and her family. I had a taken a box of Mysurpa from Krishna sweets (a local specialty here in Coimbatore where I live) and they were truly appreciated after a meal of warm lamb curry and rice. The strawberries and wine along with the Mysurpa added a Norwegian touch just to remind me that I was far away from home but in the comfort of my dear Norwegian friends.
Diwali dinner and the salmon delicacies
Baked salted Cod with the various accompaniments
Although my stay in Norway was rather short, I shared a lot of great memories with my friends over the special dinners we cooked for each other. The nearest Indian restaurant is at least a good two-hour drive from Skjervoy but even they fail to cook up dishes that are authentic enough to satisfy my friend who has spent many a months in India eating home-cooked meals in my folk's place. And to me, a self-proclaimed lover of all things with salmon, it was a gastronomic-fantasy-come-true eating salmon literally for every meal during my stay in Norway. With a heavy heart and a content belly, I said good bye to my friends (as I won't be seeing them for a while) and carried on with the rest of my trip. To be continued with more food stories from other parts of Scandinavia...............