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Trondelag, Central Norway

Trondelag, Central Norway
Caroline Bishop embarks on a culinary adventure around the region of Trøndelag in central Norway.
 
I'm sitting astride a quad bike behind a Norwegian farmer on our way to feed his herd of deer. At the sound of the engine they come running to the fence, knowing their dinner is in his trailer, and as soon as we're through the gate they surround us. Skittish and wary, they prance around the trailer and push their heads into the buckets of grain before we manage to pour it into troughs. I feel a bit guilty, watching them feed, as I've just eaten one of their friends.
 
I'm at a farm near Røros in the region of Trøndelag, central Norway, run by Helge and Signy Thorsvoll, who breed these semi-wild deer for meat, slaughtering them on site to produce a dried sausage that's typical of the region. I've sampled it on a visit to the farm as part of a 'food safari' – a minibus tour of farms, guesthouses and cafés which use locally-sourced ingredients to create fresh, tasty specialities.
 
Before reaching the farm we've visited the family-run Stensaas butchery, which works with the region's indigenous people, the Sami, to slaughter their reindeer (there are some 4,000 reindeer in the district), and the Vauldalen Fjellhotell, which keeps traditional recipes alive by holding an annual 'old food weekend' every November. Here, we lunch on reindeer heart and tongue, smoked freshwater fish from the Aursunden lake and vørterøl – a non alcoholic 'beer' made from honey, lemon and malt. Our final stop is the Kalsa guesthouse and dairy farm for sweet treats: rolled pancakes called lemse, served with gom, a delicious creamy paste I quickly become addicted to, along with thicker flat pancakes (pjalt) with brown cheese, a sweet-savoury Norwegian favourite with a nutty
Trondelag, Central Norway
flavour.
 
Trøndelag likes to think of itself as one big food dish, and it's easy to see why: it has plenty of local produce to bring to the table. Trondheim, Norway's third biggest city, which sits on the edge of a fjord in the central region of the west coast, is a huge salmon farming area. Inland, the sheer amount of space in this country of just five million people means there's ample roaming ground for dairy cows, sheep, reindeer and moose. The result is a region that doesn't have to look far to feed itself. Røros, a former copper mining town (and a UNESCO protected site) some two hours south-east of Trondheim, has won awards for sustainability, of which 'short-distance food' is a vital part; the town's main hotel group sources around 80% of its produce from local suppliers.
 
One such supplier who epitomises Trøndelag's desire to harness what the land can offer is Jørn Gunnarson Anderssen from Klostergården, a restaurant and guesthouse on the tranquil island of Tautra, an hour north of Trondheim in the fjord. With his broad Viking forehead, long wispy hair and beard, Jørn looks as much a product of Norwegian soil as the trees and berries he grows here. In addition to brewing brown ale (whose principal ingredients, he admits, come from the UK rather than Norway), he grows aronia bushes whose berries, a known super fruit, he makes into a tangy, bittersweet juice and a nutty, slightly chewy bread (which also contains leftover malt from the beer – nothing is wasted here). He's just planted 200 apple trees in the hope of making cider, and has plans to distil whisky using ingredients from the island. His shop sells homemade jams, honey and juice, along with cow's cheese made by local monks and handmade soaps produced by the nuns from Tautra's Maria Monastery. There's even a cookbook of recipes authored by one of the nuns – everyone's in on the local food scene.
 
Jørn also distils a blend of aquavit using herbs from Tautra. This potent spirit is a Norwegian native, having been drunk by monks, archbishops and mere mortals since the 14th century. Its modern incarnation was created 'accidentally' in 1805 by a trader carrying a cargo to Indonesia. On returning to Norwegian shores with a barrel of potato liquor that hadn't been sold, the crew opened it to find a rather tastily aged tipple. Surprising though it sounds, these days Linie Aquavit – the country's most famous brand – is still aged by being transported in oak barrels to Australia and back, a process that creates fluctuations in humidity, motion and temperature that its producer, Trondheim's Lysholm Distillery, could never properly recreate on shore. If you look through the golden liquid to the back of the label, you'll see the date of the journey and the ship name.
 
We learn all this during a tasting session at the Aquavit Bar no. 1 in Trondheim. Combining the kick of whisky with the sweetness of sherry (derived from the Spanish sherry casks in which it is aged), aquavit is distinctive by its notes of caraway. In fact this flavoursome herb pops up wherever we are in Trøndelag – it's in the leek soup served to us by Jørn, and in the cheese we find on a farm in Inderøy, north of Trondheim.
It's a flavour so prevalent in Trøndelag's produce that, for me, the taste of caraway will forever be associated with my visit. It conjures reindeer running through autumnal birch forests, the colourful wooden houses of Røros, the peaceful monastery on Tautra, and one greedy stag, his head in a bucket of grain.
 
For more information see visitnorway.co.uk and trondelag.com
Norwegian Air flies directly from London Gatwick to Trondheim, from £34.90 one way norwegian.com
The train to Røros takes 2.5hrs www.nsb.no
 
 
 
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7 December 2013
By: Caroline Bishop
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