Fishballs with Curry Sauce/Fiskeboller med Karrisaus (Served with potatoes and carrots)

 

My son, Blake, can’t stop snickering at the can of fishballs resting on Dad’s kitchen countertop and starts snapping pictures with his phone. I watch him select several friends to share his pictures with and wonder if this may become some sort of viral meme. This is comedy gold for most 11-year-olds; I don’t have the heart to reveal to him that fishballs (fiskeboller) is not a loose translation for fish gonads. Fiskeboller are fish dumplings; a combination of white fish (cod, haddock, or pollock), flour and milk. This is a popular dish in the Nordic countries. Some people prefer to make their own and others appreciate the convenient canned version. Yes, Scandinavians use canned and packaged food items too. Like most of Europe, their packaged items have much stricter quality standards, so you won’t be finding any sketchy dyes or unnatural preservatives, just some funny names like fishballs, instead.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Blake still thinks that the dinner menu is a joke and I wish the same ─ I do not like fiskeboller ─ “not in a box with a fox,” or in a can from a man…with a plan. (Damn it! He planned this). Reality sets in for both us as Dad cranks open the tin can. I watch his mustache begin to bend up at the corners. Somewhere under that white curtain of whiskers, a grin is tiptoeing out of its hiding place. Dad fights to keep the corners of his mouth horizontal as he dumps the fishballs into the silver pot, but the tension gives and the small grin bursts in to a wide smile, connecting both of his earlobes. I sort of hate him right now.

Ghosts of Dinners Past summon pinched-faced childhood memories of mighty power struggles between me and the dreaded fishballs. I can’t remember if it was the taste, smell, or maybe just the name…the memories twist my face from calm indifference, to disdain, and finally, disgust. I shoot Blake a look that says, “take a pic and I will make that phone part of the menu.” He studies me, trying to predict my next move; will I bolt, or will I bite.

I want to bolt ─ run like hell and not look back. What I would give for a “work emergency” or a sudden attack of diarrhea, neither are options. I had already spent the last two months preaching the virtues of having an “open-mind,” “trying new things,” “blah-blah-blah,” to my kids when we decided to take on this whole culinary project and “getting back to our roots” thing (monster). I forgot about all the fishy dishes circling those roots.

Like many, I am lifetime card member of the Hypocrite Club; my points doubled with parenthood. Unfortunately, I had maxed-out my limit with all the previous preaching and now it was time to pay. I was going to have to take a bite. My dad is a clever man. Well played old man, well played…

Ingredients:
1 can, approximately 20 oz., fiskeboller (fish dumplings)
1 packet of Karrisaus (curry sauce)
*add cardamom and pepper to taste
Sides
4 medium-large potatoes, peeled and halved
½ (approx. .5lb) bag of bag baby carrots

Preparation:
Step 1: Make the packet of the karrisaus according to the directions. Google translator will help tons. My dad is not to be trusted at this point, since he will probably say something about adding more fishballs. If in a bind, mix the sauce with approximately half a liter of “liquid,” a tad more than a quart. The liquid should be a mixture of half milk and half water.

Step 2: Let sauce come to a boil and simmer on low (start looking for exits).

Step 3: Add the fiskeboller and continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes. Refuse taste-test if offered on principle of being tricked; offer it to the next generation (child) instead.

Step 4: Boil, then cover and simmer the vegetables in separate pots until tender, approximately 20-25 minutes.

Step 5: Drain the vegetables.

Step 6: Plate the meal with carrots, potatoes, and fiskeboller with karrisaus on top of potatoes. Grab lots of condiments from fridge, just in case. I am a firm believe that ketchup and mustard can work miracles when Jesus and Karma are in cahoots.

Step 7: Take a bite and pray for mercy, maybe an angel will swoop in for the one of the corners of the ceiling and grab the plate.

Step 8: Be pleasantly surprised that the texture or the fishballs are more dumpling-like than remembered and do not have an overly fishy taste. The cardamom and black pepper Dad sprinkled in the karrisaus make this meal “next level.”

Step 9: Look at son with an air of superiority since he chickened-out and insisted on cheese pizza.

Step 10: While chewing, contemplate if Dad loves Blake more, since there were no “other options” when I was little. Come to realization that Blake clearly doesn’t know what he is missing.

Norwegian Split Pea Soup/Erter Souppe

Split pea soup is older than Campbell’s Soup Co. annddd…Jesus. Romans began cultivating this lime legume sometime between 500-400 B.C. Athenians vendors were selling bowls of pea soup in the streets. Its popularity grew into the 19th century and began popping up in other countries, mainly because it was a cheap and nutritious food source. The dried peas could be stored for a long time, which kind of made this the “bean of Europe” in many ways (“Vegetarians in Paradise/Peas History/Peas Nutrition/Peas Folklore/Peas Recipe”).

If you should travel abroad and get a hankering for some split pea soup, or just see it on the menu as you scan for chocolate cake; you may notice some differences in the recipe based on the country it is from (“Pea Soup”):
– Canada prefers yellow peas.
– Germany’s version has smoked meats like ham, bacon, or sausage in it.
– Poland feeds a thick version to its Navy, probably so it can stay on spoons in choppy waters.
– Swedes and Finns eat their soup with pork and pancakes on Thursdays, to prepare for fasting on Fridays.
– The U.S. eats a version from a red-labeled can. This pork and carrot recipe was inspired by French-Canadian mill workers, who settled in New England during the 19th century.

There seems to be a divide to what “real” Norwegian split pea soup is. Some believe it is only yellow peas, others green, and a small independent faction, it is whichever bag of peas is on sale. My dad belongs to the latter. Most can at least agree that it doesn’t come from a can, even moi, I mean “meg” (me in Norwegian).

Today I am sharing the version that my dad’s mother, my farmor (father’s mother in Norwegian), made on many evenings at the lake cabin. The soup has seasonal versatility with a few simple modifications. During cold weather, serve with hunks of hardy rye bread and beer. If you live where it is super cold and snows a lot, like Fargo or “Anywhere Minnesota,” you can have this with two beers ─ you’re not driving anywhere.

In the summers you can omit the meat and serve with flat bread crisps and a cold (small) glass of aquavit. Traditional aquavit is a very potent Norwegian liquor and is also super old. It has been made the same way for approximately 200 years and has nasal-passage-clearing notes of anise and caraway.

Ingredients:
1 lb. dried split peas
2 med potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 larger carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup of diced rutabaga, peeled and chopped (Good lord, this one is awful to peel and chop ─ think “Sword in the Stone moment.”)
½-3/4 cup celery, chopped
1 meaty ham bone/ham hock (1 -1 ½ cup of meat)
2 tsp of ham stock (bullion)
Dash of black pepper to taste
Dash of salt to taste
2-3 bay leaves

Preparation:
*Check peas for stones and debris. Do this or pay later at the dentist!

Step 1: Cover the peas with 8-10 cups of water in either a pot or crock pot. (I have not used the instant pot on this yet, because it intimidates me – baby steps).

Step 2: Add the chopped potatoes, carrots, onion, rutabaga, and celery.

Step 3: Put the ham bone/ ham hock and ham stock/bullion into the pool. Bring the pot to a boil; cover and let it simmer over low heat for about 1 ½ hours and stir occasionally.

Step 4: Then take out the ham bone/hock and remove the meat. Dice the meat and put the meat and the bone/hock back into the pot.

Step 5: When peas soften or start breaking up, taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Cover and continue to cook for another 30-45 minutes on low and stir occasionally.

Step 6: Remove bay leaves when finished. Serve in bowls with flat bread, biscuits, dinner pancakes, or hardy bread and enjoy!