Now that Easter is officially over, we’re at full speed ahead preparing for May 17th, Norway’s Constitution Day and easily one of the most celebrated days of the year for Norwegians. This made me think of potato salad, the most classic of dishes served no only on this day, but in the weeks and season ahead.
When I searched my blog, I was really surprised that I hadn’t included my ‘famous’ recipe for a Scandinavian-style potato salad. Perhaps it’s because I included it in my popular e-book “A Collection of Recipes from Arctic Grub”, and thought I had posted it here as well. Regardless, I do recommend picking up a copy of my e-book as it contains many of my favorite, still unpublished classic Norwegian recipes – and you will have one document where they’re all in one collective place.
But back to my potato salad: What I love about this recipe, is that it’s not heavy and fatty like so many versions I see out there; rather it’s bright, light and citrusy packed with nice, fresh herbs and crunch provided by pickled and celery. It’s the perfect companion to barbecue during summers, or as a light spring meal with a nice loaf of bread.
The potato is said to be the immigrant that really adapted and became Norwegian. From the Andes to Europe, potatoes broke through as produce in Norway around the early 19th century. Today, potatoes are grown all over the country and is considered one of Norway’s most important foods. Many Norwegians still don’t think it’s a proper meal if they get one served without potatoes!
The season for new potatoes is short, only 2 months from about mid-June until August, and is almost a national sensation in Norway. The arrival of new potatoes is the highlight of the summer for food lovers: the first new potatoes are delivered to the Royal Castle, that’s how special they are. Although we get potatoes all year round in Norway, there is something unique about new potatoes that is enjoyed and eaten shortly after they’re extracted from the earth: they are typically harvested and packaged on the same day.
New potatoes have a simple, summer flavor which is best featured in a simple dish where they can shine, such as a potato salad. Other ways to prepare them is to lightly boil or steam them and serve them with fresh herbs, a dab of vegan butter or vegan sour cream, and a little salt and pepper. I also love making flatbread with thinly sliced potatoes, perhaps with a little pesto smeared on the bottom. Other flavor combinations that are successful include horseradish, thyme and oregano.
I can tell you with some assurance that nobody will be disappointed at the flavor and addition of this potato salad on the table. It’s always a hit when I serve it to my guests and beats the store-bought version 10 times over. I tend to prefer adding sour cream instead of mayo to the salad, as it is lighter and tangier, but if you can’t find vegan sour cream, vegan mayo is a fine alternative. If using mayo, don’t skimp on the acid (lemon juice, pickle juice) as that is what brightens up the salad.
I can think of nothing else that resembles a Norwegian summer more than this dish. It’s one that brings out sweet memories for me of sitting on the deck, overlooking the majestic mountains and fjord, and appreciating the fresh local produce. Fruits and vegetables grown in Norway are simply the tastiest because of the extended day lights coupled with cooler temperatures. A small slice of heaven on earth!
Classic Norwegian Potato Salad
Serves about 6 (as a side dish)
2 ½ lbs (about 1 kg) new potatoes, or Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
½ cup (1.25dl) vegan mayo (I like Just mayo) or vegan sour cream
1-2 tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup (70ml) pickle juice
Juice of 1 large lemon, or more to taste
5-6 dill pickles, minced
2 celery sticks, chopped fine
½ small red onion, chopped fine
2 handfuls of fresh dill, chopped (and more for garnish)
or flat-leaf parsley if you prefer
Kosher or sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes in salted water until a fork or cake tester inserts easily, about 20 minutes. Drain and let cool on a sheet tray while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together Mayo or sour cream, Dijon mustard, pickle juice and lemon juice. Add the pickles, celery, red onion and dill, and combine well. Dice the cooled potatoes into 1 -2 inch pieces, and add to the mixture. Season with salt and pepper, add more lemon juice, pickle juice or mayo as you see fit. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least a couple of hours to let flavors blend. When ready to serve, garnish with fresh dill sprigs (or parsley), and let come to room temperature.