Modern Norwegian cuisine is characterised by the simple idea that people should eat locally, seasonally, healthily and in a way that uses nature and the land in a sustainable way. With such an ethos, today’s pioneers of the New Nordic Kitchen are pushing the boundaries of Norway’s food culture. However, their methods are rooted firmly in the past.
Traditionally, the limitations of the land, the harsh climate, sparsely populated landscapes and poor transport meant communities relied upon gathering seasonal produce and fishing in times of plenty, then preserving food to survive the long winter months. Thanks to age-old techniques of pickling, curing, salting and smoking, households ate a healthy, nutritious diet all year round. Vikings, for example, set forth on their epic voyages with hulls full of dried and salted meat and fish.
With Norway’s vast coastline and swathes of wild landscapes, the great outdoors is a way of life. All Norwegians enjoy the right to roam in their forests, fields and mountains, and foraging for seasonal berries, herbs, wild fruit, nuts and mushrooms is a national pastime (the best foraging spots are closely guarded secrets handed down from one generation to the next). The foraging legacy has been embraced heartily by the New Nordic Kitchen and a proud new generation of home cooks.
‘Our food culture is very simple, season-based and full of flavour,’ says Norwegian author, home cook and visual storyteller Marte Marie Forsberg. ‘The focus now is on local produce, seasonal produce and foraging. We are rediscovering what our grandparents and previous generations ate, but putting our twist on it. A new generation is learning to cook again and seeking inspiration from nature, the seasons and what is available in the wild. There’s a really exciting mix of the old and new schools.’
Pickled fish and vegetables are a distinctive feature of Norwegian cuisine. Traditionally, in the absence of refrigeration and fresh fruit and vegetables, pickling gave households access to a healthy diet throughout the year. Today, sursild (herring pickled in sweet vinegar with peppercorns, herbs and spices) is a national staple. And many a Norwegian dish (from simple home cooking to restaurant fine dining) is served with a dash of zing and colour in the shape of pickled beetroot, red cabbage, carrot or cucumber.
‘The New Nordic kitchen is taking care of these old traditions,’ says award-winning Norwegian chef Kjartan Skejelde.’We’re honouring the past in imaginative new ways. I’ve even pickled stinging nettles. However, I love to pickle beetroot. Its earthy flavour and fruity tones works with almost everything. First, I cook it whole together with the peelings, then I put it in a spicy pickling syrup. The taste and consistency are amazing.’
On Iona’s cruises to Norway, you can taste the best of Marte’s Norwegian home cooking with her exclusive menus for the main restaurant and Taste 360. You’ll also enjoy a Nordic fine-dining experience at The Epicurean, where award-winning chef Kjartan Skjelde has created a six-course tasting menu bursting with fresh fjordic flavours.
Spanish food than paella...
Spanish cuisine is a patchwork of flavours and traditions, woven over centuries and culminating in a food culture admired the world over.
To sum up Spanish food as a whole is next to impossible, as it varies greatly from region to region. Historically, different regions have eaten what’s readily available to them, and so the country’s geography and climate have played an important role in its cuisine, be it oranges from sun-soaked Valencia or pulpo a la Gallega (octopus) from the rich coastal waters of Galicia.
Spain’s history has arguably done even more to shape its food culture. The country has been occupied by the Phoenicians, Romans and Moors, to name a few, and each group has brought with them their own influences. Spain’s voyages of discovery to the New World were equally important. It was from here that explorers returned home with ingredients such as tomatoes and potatoes, now used in everything from Andalusia’s famous gazpacho to the Canary Islands’ papas arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes).
Olive oil, pimentón (paprika) and garlic are key ingredients found consistently across Spanish cuisine. All are simple and readily available – in fact, many Spanish dishes have their origins as rustic ‘peasant food’. Indeed, one can certainly eat simply, cheaply and well in Spain. However, if it’s fine dining you’re after, you won’t have much trouble finding it. Spanish restaurants regularly hold court atop many world’s best restaurants lists, and Michelin-starred eateries abound.
Whatever they’re eating, the Spanish like to make an event of it. ‘Tapas brings people together,’ says José Pizarro, Godfather of Spanish cooking in the UK and one of Iona’s Local Food Heroes. ‘When you go out, tapas allow you to enjoy food and wine and company, and to talk. Food brings culture to the table.’
The tradition of tapas is about more than just sampling lots of dishes – it’s a chance to socialise, relax and truly savour what you’re eating. Lunch is leisurely, dinner tends to happen later in the evening, and you’ll rarely find a Spaniard scoffing down a ready meal in front of the television. Food is rooted in tradition here – and what a tradition it is.
On board Iona’s cruises to Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands, we’re bringing you exclusive menus by José Pizarro. He’ll be creating a guest tapas menu for The Glass House and Spanish street-food dishes for Taste 360, all designed to give you a true taste of Spain and enhance your holiday experience. ¡Salud!