We all have our own definition of comfort food. For some, that means burgers, mac & cheese, poutine, wings. For others, it’s chicken noodle soup, cabbage rolls, and even Sushi. Let’s face it, food is comforting. Whether it’s at a tailgating party, that long awaited reservation for the hottest bistro in town, or a gloomy rainy day in the dead of autumn, food pulls us in like a reliable friend and gives us that reassuring hug we need. A frosty tub of caramel brownie ice cream in a time of heartache warms our soul and gives us hope. The scent of roast turkey magically whisks us back in time like something out of a sci-fi movie. However we define comfort food, it’s the love and respect that invites us in, takes care and nourishes us, and awaits with great patience for our next uncontrollable craving.
I am The Migrant Chef and I’ve been obsessed with food my whole life. I love eating, cooking, watching food programs, grocery shopping, and most importantly, learning about food. You can tell a lot about a country’s culture just by stepping into a foreign grocery store. Having come from the Great White North, I didn’t expect much cultural difference when I moved to Norway. Sure, the language would be a barrier, but how different could it really be? They have grocery stores, McDonalds, shopping centers, but what I saw shocked me. My first impression of the food culture in Norway was, “Wow, don’t these people like food?” Tiny grocery shops on every second corner housed shelves of processed canned fish in ketchup, liver paste with a five-year expiry dates, and powdered sauces that had no indistinguishable flavor other than copious amounts of sodium. The dairy was good, but it better be since those same haggard cows that are too old to milk, become that sick-to-my-stomach expensive rib-eye, or tenderloin that could barely pass as tender. The produce was so tightly suffocated in plastic that touching or smelling for freshness became an exercise in futility. Yes, this was my new food culture at first glance.
As time passed I adjusted to my new life in Oslo. New foods, new customs, new experiences made me forget my homeland momentarily. Then again, trying Lutefisk for the first time would make even the bravest foodie forget their own name. In all seriousness, eating jelly-like alkaline soaked codfish served in bacon grease can actually be very good, provided it is perfectly executed. Otherwise, a dish that would normally kill you three weeks into its eight week process is not everybody’s cup of tea. Traditional foods of Norway are special. Some are exceptionally delicious, such as Pinnekjøtt (cured ribs of mutton) and Lapskaus (beef or lamb stew). Others require as much courage as they do acquired tastes, such as Rakfisk (fermented sea trout) and Smalahove (smoked sheep head served on the skull). And of course, I mustn’t forget to mention the everyday fare. Norwegian bread, I’ll admit is the best bread I’ve ever had. Freezer jams from the grocery store taste like it was pulled from grandma’s pantry. And due to the steep history of pork farming in this rocky little country, ham, pork belly, and various other cuts are of a superior quality. Yes, life was good and I was learning a lot. But then I started to miss home.
So many foods I’d grown up with, so much I had taken for granted was simply gone. That Boston Cream Donut I couldn’t resist while ordering my afternoon java from the local Tim Horton’s….gone. Those succulent and fiery buffalo wings available in every bar and pub across North America…gone. That lip pursing acidic dill pickle found on any burger or sandwich…GONE!! From the most blindingly obvious, to the ever most subtle details that made up my culinary portfolio, it was clear what I had to do if I was ever going to fill in those gaps to feed my cravings. I had to recreate my favorite foods and I had to do it from scratch.
Today, I am adventuring out into the ether armed with my recipes and stories. This blog will hopefully help me piece together fragments of my long sought-after recipes, as it will entertain and comfort you. From burgers and wings, to Pad Thai and samosas, and everything decadent in between, come along with this migrant chef as we explore the world of comfort food.
A note to readers:
You will notice in the recipes not all measurements are confined to just one system. As a Canadian, bordering on the U.S., I’ve become accustomed to cups as opposed to deciliters, and teaspoons and tablespoons instead of milliliters. Temperatures, however, are listed in Celsius versus Fahrenheit, and weight is measured in grams and kilograms. Where appropriate, I’ll give you both units for clarity’s sake.
As a general guideline, I use the metric system. When I say cup, I mean a metric 250ml cup, NOT a 240ml US cup, or 227ml Canadian cup, 200ml Japanese cup or even a 284ml imperial cup. I mean 250ml METRIC CUP.
1 cup = 2.5dl = 250ml
1 tbsp = 15ml
1 tsp = 5ml
I recommend using a kitchen converter, or conversion program/app. Also, investing in a kitchen scale is a very good idea.
One final note: the recipes in this blog are my own creations and have been tested. If typos or mistakes are found, please let me know. The photos are far from professional, but my intention is to give you an honest representation of each recipe. Some ingredients may not be readily available to everyone. Where applicable, I’ll suggest a substitution. Any comments, concerns, or questions may be posted under “Comments” or feel free to contact me directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.