Thursday, April 24, 2014

Recipes from Jan Mayen

Ah yes, the non-countries. I suppose you're still wondering why I do them. Sometimes I wonder, myself. I don't really know how to explain it except to say that I like a challenge. I like to be creative. And what could be more challenging and potentially creative than trying to come up with recipes from places where no one actually lives?

Jan Mayen is another one of those remote islands, where there is actually a small garrison of people living for part of the year--18 people in the winter, and 36+ in the summer. Some of the people living there are Norwegian Armed Forces personnel (Jan Mayen is a Norwegian territory), and the rest of them are employees of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.

The island is volcanic, about 144 square miles and partly covered by glaciers. You guessed it, it's in the Arctic Ocean. Which of course means that there's not much on Jan Mayen--it has only one exportable resource: gravel. How exciting.

Jan Mayen is that little white circle next to Greenland.

Historically, Jan Mayen was used as a Dutch whaling base and was actually the stage for some really dramatic, movie-worthy stuff during World War II, which I will not actually try to describe here because it's quite a long story (Wikipedia will tell you all about it). Recently Jan Mayen has also been a tourist destination, albeit for only a few lucky tourists, though the Norwegian Government is now limiting landings and camping on the island.

Jan Mayen. Photo by Juergen Kurlvink.

So this left me with a couple of alternatives for finding recipes. I could contact the Norwegian Armed Forces or the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and try to find someone who was stationed on Jan Mayen to see if they would be willing to send me a recipe or two. Or, I could contact Borea Adventures, the company that offered exclusive expeditions to the island before the restrictions were in place.

I decided to contact Borea Adventures first, for a couple of reasons. First, because it's difficult to get anyone from any sort of military operation to take me seriously, and second, because I figured a company that catered to tourists would have a lot better food than the rations provided by the military or by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.

Often, when I go out in search of recipes for non-countries, I get met with a lot of silence. I guess people look at my emails and then just laugh and click "delete." But every now and then I'm very lucky to find a person or an organization who get back to me right away and seem eager to help. Borea Adventures was one of these. Within 24 hours of my original email I was contacted by NannĂ½ Arna, who sent me this recipe:

Borea Lamb Soup
  • 2 lbs lamb meat
  • 17 cups water
  • 10 1/2 oz yellow beet
  • 10 1/2 oz carrots
  • one onion
  • 7  tbsp mixed thyme, oregano and rosemary
  • 10 1/2 oz potatoes
  • 7 tbsp barley
  • 2-3 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 boullion
  • bay leaf
This is a recipe that Borea Adventures always serves en route to Jan Mayen, along with a bread made with yogurt instead of yeast:

No Yeast Yogurt Bread

  • 1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 3/4 cup rye flour
  • 3 tbsp wheat germ
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup skim milk or water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp salt
Now this particular recipe is not one of Borea Adventures'--it comes from Sujana's World. I didn't want to be too much of a pest so I decided to use this recipe instead of bugging NannĂ½ to give me one from the ship's cookbook. This recipe does have a lot of components that other Norwegian bread recipes have, so I thought it would be a good choice. Here's how to make:

Grease a loaf pan and preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Put everything into a bowl and mix until you get a really sticky dough.

Pour the dough into the pan and bake for 1 hour and 40 minutes, checking often (mine only took about an hour 20). Since this isn't a yeast bread it won't sound hollow when you knock on it, so go by how brown it gets on the outside. Cool and slice.

 Now for the soup:

Throw all the ingredients into a pot and cook for 1 1/2 hours. That's it! I let mine reduce down quite a bit by cooking it on a very high temperature in the last 20 minutes or so.

So Martin isn't a huge fan of lamb, which meant I already knew he'd be indifferent about the soup. I loved it, however. The lamb was really tender and the broth, oh my, it was super rich and flavorful. Martin thought there were too many herbs in the soup, but that's because he dislikes leafy herbs more and more the older he gets (he never used to be like that). I however thought they were really good in this soup, though I suppose it wouldn't have hurt to tone them down a little.

The bread was delicious, too, and it paired beautifully with the soup. I was really surprised by how light it was for a non-yeast bread. It had a nice, mildly sweet flavor from all that honey and was just really enjoyable, though my kids of course didn't like it because they don't like any bread that is made of actual whole grain anything. I shouldn't judge, because usually I sort of lean in that direction too, but this was definitely an exception. Best of all, the whole meal was simple, and I needed simple right now.

Anyway if cold Arctic adventures are your thing, please bookmark Borea Adventures. I'm very sure they'll give you a great experience and treat you well, too.

Next week: Japan


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