THIS week I went all Scandinavian – must be the first frost that did it.
Also, I watched a charming little Norwegian film called O’Horten about an elderly train driver from Oslo.
There he sits, in splendid isolation in his cab, all the way up the country to the snowy north through spectacular countryside, puffing thoughtfully on his pipe.
When he reluctantly reaches retirement age, Horten finds his life becoming rather peculiar with nothing much to do all day, meeting odd characters and ending up in some bizarre situations.
I recommend it highly – it’s a sweet, gentle comedy, beautifully directed and acted.
At one point, outside a restaurant, our hero is asked if he likes Sandefjord butter. I’d never heard of this so immediately I consulted the internet and discovered that it was merely a butter/cream reduction with myriad regional flavourings.
I fancied a crack at it and thought immediately of a nice fillet of firm fish, some mashed potatoes and, for true Scandinavian authenticity, a few slices of lightly-pickled cucumber.
Aha! This week’s recipe was decided!
Halibut, the largest of the flatfish, is a fine fish, densely meaty and absolutely full of flavour.
I remember seeing my first whole halibut down at our fishmongers one morning and couldn’t get over how huge it was.
It must have been about 3ft long and enormously thick in the middle.
The firm, juicy steaks taken from that monster must have been superb.
Of course, to get this big and tasty it takes the halibut a long time, and, as with many of our favourite fishy friends, numbers are dwindling faster than they should be.
Restrictions have been set, but fishing is desperately hard to police, and we simply have to trust the trawlermen of the world to do the right thing.
Just make sure you don’t make a habit of eating halibut too often lest this fine and noble beast be lost forever.
Many fishmongers now sell farmed halibut, and, while fish-farming does have its own set of environmental impacts, this is an important means of encouraging the re-stocking of the natural population.
And, of course, you may use any firm-fleshed white fish you like by way of substitution – or even salmon.
The recipe is very versatile.