Spring officially marked its entrance on the meteorological calendar, but it has yet to arrive (or come close to arriving) in our valley.
I’ve been conjuring up ideas for spring dishes with pops of color and fresh greens that have just sprouted up from the once frozen earth. But alas, the snow seems to be standing its ground with a fierce endurance that will undoubtedly result in its presence until the very last moment when hope for a timely and long spring has all but dwindled.
So, I turn to the kitchen to take up battle by making spring-inspired dishes (as if by making a dish that is reflective of spring I will somehow will spring into arriving faster). But battle seems like a harsh stance, especially since this winter has been one of the most charming and delightful winters we have had in Numedal since moving here and I look forward to a few more ski trips leading up to påske (Easter). I suppose even if spring is still a long time away, one can always bring it to the plate a little earlier.
One of my favorite traditional Norwegian side dishes – one that somehow caught my attention when I first was introduced to Norwegian food – is ertestuing (stewed green peas). I’m not sure why. I think it’s the creamy texture and heartiness that comes from using dried green peas and letting them simmer until they are so soft you can mash them into a coarse texture that has a taste reminiscent of a good pea stew minus the meat and vegetables.
I wanted to take that hearty mash of dried peas and glam it up a bit with a spring feel. To take them from being a side dish (often to kjøttkaker and lutefisk) to being the star. So, I topped a bowl of warm stewed peas with a drizzle of whipped cream cheese made of goat’s milk, fresh radish slices, toasted seeds and nuts, and a handful of parsley. Using homemade lompe (soft potato flatbread) chips to dip in, this brought spring straight into the kitchen. And I could enjoy eating it while looking out across the snow-laden valley, embracing the best of both seasons.This is a great and simple appetizer or snack to serve, but plan to prepare the peas a day ahead. Serve with lompe chips (I make mine by cutting lompe into triangles and baking in the oven or heating over a dry frying pan until crisp) or flatbreads or fresh vegetables, such as carrots and rutabaga. You can also toss fresh mint on top.
Stewed Green Pea Dip with Radishes (ertestuing-dipp)
Serves 6 to 8
For the stewed peas (prepare a day in advance):
- 1 cup (200 g) dried whole green peas
- Water, for soaking and cooking
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon linseeds
- 1 teaspoon sunflower seeds
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons soft cream cheese (preferably made of goat’s milk)
- 1 teaspoon milk, plus more as needed
- 2-3 radishes, sliced thinly and then cut in half
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley (and/or mint), chopped
- Good quality rapeseed oil (or olive oil) to drizzle
- Freshly ground black pepper
Place the peas in a large bowl. Cover with cold water and soak overnight.
Drain the peas. Place them in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot and cover with cold water 1-inch (2 ½ cm) above the peas. Add ¾ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium. Cover with a lid, but leave a little space open for some of the steam to escape. Simmer for 1 hour until softened and most, but not all, of the water has been absorbed. Mash coarsely with a vegetable masher or fork. Add a little water or butter if the peas are too thick. Place in a serving bowl.
Place the seeds and nuts in a dry, heavy pan over medium heat. Toast for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until they are golden brown and fragrant. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, whip the cream cheese with a fork until fluffy. Add in 1 teaspoon milk and combine. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more milk until you achieve the right consistency. You want to be able to drizzle it, but not have it too runny. If it is too runny, just add in more cream cheese.
Take the stewed peas and drizzle the cream cheese mixture on top. Sprinkle with the toasted seeds and top with the radish slices and chopped parsley (and/or mint). I like to drizzle a little good quality rapeseed oil on top and some freshly ground black pepper.
Serve with lompe (soft potato flatbread) chips and vegetables, such as carrot and rutabaga slices. You can also use various flatbreads/crisp breads.