Into The Mountains and Tongue Extraction!

I am currently sitting in the departure lounge at Bodø airport, having taken the 20 minute flight from Leknes on Lofoten Island. It’s been a sombre morning as the adventure has concluded and we are all on our way homebound in some form or another. I have personally been subdued, I am extremely emotional when it comes to goodbyes and mentally, have been focussing on ‘till next time’, rather than goodbye to try and hold back the tears.

Anyway back to Saturday, another fun packed programme of activities to enthral us all, of course after a delicious substantial breakfast. I am fighting back the aroma magnetism of Bacon and Eggs and this morning opt for the Cold Smoked Haddock, Poached Eggs, Horseradish Labneh and Pickles with Salmon Roe, another brilliantly conceived plate of food.

The kitchen staff at Holmen are truly wonderful, their coffee skills able to whisk up the most flavourful coffees (in my case Latte), and all the food and service is top drawer, and with a meaningful smile wedded to real enthusiasm and passion. I fancied desert so they also made me a half portion of Waffles, Brunost (that sweet salty Goats Cheese), Berries, Gooseberry Yoghurt and Sour Cream…. Yummy.

The first session of the day was a hike, I needed it after the breakfast I had just consumed! We headed into the hills, admiring the environment, inhaling air so fresh it had not been polluted by modern industry. The views were stunning, the snow crisp and in places extremely deep. I had spent the last few months going out for walks practising, but nothing could have prepared me for the drag of 2 1/2 feet of snow on the legs and thighs, it was very hard work but worth it nonetheless, another truly amazing experience. The pace was managed so even the old gits like me could enjoy things, we stopped to take rest and thoroughly enjoyed sliding down a steep bank, fresh snow creating a slide of sorts, our back-sides helping us navigate the slope!

After enjoying a thoroughly delicious hot fruit tea, served in traditional wooden cups we headed back to Holmen, stopping by racks of Cod drying in the cold dry crisp air, a local tradition on Lofoten, the smell was obvious, heady and pungent.

All the food so far had been exceptional, no faf, but hearty, wholesome and packed with flavour. The lunches were lighter as during the evenings we were delighted with multiple courses, matched with a variety of delicious wines, cocktails, punches and witches brew, that the genius that is Nick Strangeway pulled together. I was really looking forward to todays lunch, Arctic Hare, a la Pasty, a nod to Rick Stein who set his stable in Cornwall where the pie like food originated. It was outrageously delicious, served with mash, appropriately drenched in Butter! It was a Val Warner creation and more complex than its description, with added Goats Sausage, a variety of vegetables and a matching sauce including the cooking liquor and a whole host of other delicious ingredients that resulted in a really rich and tasty gravy, and a Pasty to die for!

There is a tradition in parts of Norway where fishing is the prevalent industry, the young children from approximately 8 years to 15 years of age get paid for removing the tongues from Cod’s heads, they can earn up to $2000 per day when at their prime, and some are able to buy houses and cars by the time they are 18. We were treated to a talk and live demonstration of this fascinating part of the history of Norway by our host Ingunns daughter, and then some of us were able to have a go ourselves, it’s not as easy at it seems and I was struggling, imagining an 8 year old knife wielding tongue remover, in orange coveralls attacking a massive crate of cod heads, a great theme for the next Norweigian Chainsaw Massacre film!

Our next workshop was with the brilliant Tom Frost, apart from being a totally lovely bloke, he is a master at the art of screen printing and we were to receive a masterclass, followed by assistance to have a go on our own. It was hilarious, the guidance to keep things simple failed miserably as we seemed to create all manner of challengers with multiple colours and lots of challenging processes. I suspect most people have had a go at screen printing, something we did in junior school so reliving our childhood created a further sense of fun, and remembering happy childhood times which was really nice.

If you cannot remember, screen printing requires making a mask, which prevents ink getting onto the paper, so as you make the image more complicated, and with more colours there are multiple time consuming steps as the ink has to drive after every ‘press’. It quite some time to first, work out a design that would actually work, and then, using a very sharp scalpel trying to cut the paper image accurately. Trying to align and register each layer was an added complication.

Having worn Tom out with our ‘simple’ screen printing there was time for relaxing and then one of the highlights, (apart from Ricks food), an hour’s talk by Rick on his life and the numerous experiences he has had over the years, before a dinner curated and prepared by the kitchen team at Holmen Lofoten.

During the talk, we were also treated to a variety of nibbles and some delicious drinks curated by the brilliant Nick Strangeway, like a Lingonberry Negroni, or hows about a Seaweed Martini, all very delicious indeed, as was the food. During the talk, and speaking with Sass Stein, Ricks wife I was made aware of a couple of books he had written that were not in my library, thanks to smart phones and online shopping they had both arrived on my doorstop by the time I got home. Thanks for the heads up Sass.

The talent of the Holmen kitchen, with Richard ‘Coxy’ Cox at the helm was inspiring and just brilliant. If you look at the menu above, Tongue & Cheek Terrine, Bottarga Fish Skin Crisp and Beetroot was standout, and Skrei and Whey, Periwinkles and Salsify, well everyone was blown away at the quality and inspiration behind the food. Ingunn, Richard’s boss pictured above mentioned on numerous occasions how lucky she was to have found such as amazing calm, and professional chef (no swearing or shouting at anyone, especially staff). He was just brilliant, and a really top bloke!

…………………….Until Next Time…………………L8ers…………….

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