The Italian-Norwegian Frame of Mind

What a strange combination you might comment. It is, but then I am a little strange too. I mean, I like to make up my own rules when cooking. I team up dishes from various parts of the globe together. It is closely related to travel. I end up picking up on tips on introducing dishes to my repertoire of cooking while dancing around in the kitchen with a ladle and knife (I really do, I groove to music while cooking). These dishes take me along with them to where I was when I first tried them and the feeling of pure bliss I experienced when I dug into them.

Tonight I am in the mood for Aglio e Olio. It is the classic spaghetti dish, the ultimate feast food really. Put that in front of me and I could gobble up more than my stomach can hold. The rustic Italian dish is made with the simplest of ingredients such as generous lashings of olive oil and crushed garlic pods along with a smattering of peperoncini – because it is said to have originated in the once poor region of Abruzzo in Italy. I substituted white spaghetti with wholegrain spelt spaghetti. And I love my greens, so in the backdrop is a side of stir-fried asparagus with salt and freshly crushed black pepper.

The other star of my dinner is the Norheimsund Chicken. You see, one rainy day in Norheimsund, a village on one of the many mysterious fjords of Norway, we were presented with organic chicken breast and thyme by the host of the apartment we had rented. She runs an organic farm on her farm which is just one of her many talents. The others include dancing a jig while explaining the name of her Pointer dog, Charleston, and then suddenly positioning her arms like she was about to launch an arrow off an imaginary bow into the air — to tell us that he points just so when he goes hunting. I could see why Charleston would not leave her alone. And I could also see why she so appealed to me.

Anyway, to get back to matters more related to what lies on the plate, I slit the chicken breast, slid a sprig or two of thyme in with two cloves of garlic, a slice of Babybel cheese (because I like to have them on me for snacking when I am travelling) and some butter. It went on to a cast iron pan on the burner and voila, the chicken that came out was a winner. We call it Norheimsund Chicken, because it is something that we just came up with out of necessity and fell in love with. If you try it, do let me know.

I am tucking into the goodness of it with a ruby-red Malbec — the spaghetti making me feel greedy for some more, but the chicken saying, ‘Go on, ignore me. You know how it thrills me’  — and I cannot help thinking that Sophia Loren had a point when she noted, “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.

What is going to be on your plate tonight? What are your favourites from your travels that you have incorporated into your daily meals?

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Arundhati Basu

The great affair in my life is to travel. I count myself immensely fortunate that my partner shares this passion. We are a team that likes to spend time planning and plotting out places to go. Destination check, flights check, accommodation check, cheesy grins check. Off we go.

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