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July 8, 2009

Budget airline Ryanair has just opened a new direct route between Edinburgh and Haugesund, a city on the south west coast of Norway. The Haugesund region promotes itself as the home of the Viking Kings but these days the area is more keen to export its reputation as a destination for food tourism rather than axe-wielding beserkers.

The 5pm blog made tracks over to the Norwegian consulate in Edinburgh to hear all about the glories of the country’s larder from Tore Gautesen, Hausegund’s tourism rep.

As you might expect, Norway’s famous fjords play a large role in the country’s diet with smoked or cured salmon jostling for pole position with numerous forms of pickled herring. Haugesund itself is known as herring city as it was more or less founded on the trade in the fish.

Slightly more surprising was the Norwegian fondness for lamb. According to Tore, farikal, meaning lamb in cabbage, is a popular stew which is traditionally eaten in the autumn when the flocks are brought down from the high mountains. It’s a simple dish consisting of layers of lamb, cabbage and black pepper.

I was also taken with their version of bresaola or air-dried ham. Hung up to dry in the breezes which waft up and down the coast, the meat takes on a unique salty character. On a similar maritime theme, Norway produces a particular brand of aquavit which, like Madeira, is only considered to be ready for drinking once it has been carried on board a ship for a while. Every bottle of Linie aquavit is sent on a voyage across the equator before it’s considered ready. The changes in humidity, temperature and the constant motion of the liquid within the barrel are said to give it a unique taste.

Tore reckons that a glass of aquavit and a plate of prawns would be a quintessentially Norwegian snackette that’s best enjoyed with the sound of gently lapping waves. I wondered what might be the equivalent for Norwegian tourists coming to Edinburgh. A meal in Amber Restaurant at the Scotch Whisky Experience followed by a thorough exploration of the bar perhaps?

The Vikings were enthusiastic about barbecues
The Vikings: loved a good BBQ

The Vikings: enjoyed few things more than an aquavit and a BBQ

Pic from Flickr