Smell the savoury aroma of this venison roast. Just the thought made your mouth water, right?
“Norwegian game is world-class. The distinct flavours and fragrances set it apart from any other meat”, says the Norwegian master chef Arne Brimi.
Why? Because the animals spend their whole life in the wild, eating their way through deep forests, across open mountain plains, and into deep mountain gorges.
“This gives the reindeer meat its unmistakable mountain aroma. From their birth in early spring, the animals roam freely in the wild. They graze on mountain pastures and refine the local flora for our gastronomic benefit”, Brimi says.
At his restaurant Vianvang in Vågå in the Gudbrandsdalen valley, Brimi serves his guests a taste of Norwegian wildlife. Here, he also teaches culinary courses.
According to Brimi, each game region has its own identity. “Differences in soil and vegetation make the meat taste unique to each region, and local culture and traditions add to the culinary experience.”
Brimi strongly recommends that you seek out family-run restaurants and eateries. Not only do they often serve delicious food – they do so in a way that is consistent with local traditions and history.
Because for Brimi, the experience of a good meal is about more than just the food itself. “When you eat game, you experience the local culture and traditions”, he states.
Luckily for our ancestors, they could hunt. Without the constant supply of game, they couldn’t have survived this far north for thousands of years. Game is still an important part of our culinary heritage, and the Sami have reindeer husbandry in their DNA.
Norway has some of the largest areas of unspoilt nature in Europe, and controlled hunting is essential for sustainable wildlife management.
There are several game farms in the country, where deer and reindeer are bred for meat consumption. However, many Norwegians either hunt themselves or buy meat from other hunters.
“For me, hunting is a way to stay in balance with nature. You learn to respect the animals even more if you can use the resources in a sustainable way”, Brimi says.
Brimi stresses that it is important to use every edible part of the animal in cooking.
“Of large animals like moose and deer, you can make cured sausages, meat patties, and slow-cooked neck. Not to mention delicious broths. It is pure magic – practically a culinary art form!”
Brimi has cooked campfire dishes for Their Majesties King Harald and Queen Sonja on national TV. But what would he serve the royal couple in his restaurant if he wanted to give them the best possible game experience? The answer is simple.
“Grouse. It has everything you need.”
And it needs very little flavouring.
“The trick to cooking game meat is to keep it simple and use very little seasoning. A pinch of salt to add flavour is really all you need. I usually leave out even the salt, and just add a lump of butter.”
But the meal is not complete without some savoury additions. Like potatoes, carrots, and lingonberries – and your preferred drink.
“Norwegian root vegetables are the best choice for side dishes. There are so many great farmers out there!” Brimi declares.
Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and mushrooms also go well with game. “And Onion sauce is a Norwegian staple with cooked meat.”
Brimi always makes sure to serve water with his meals. Apart from that, the choice of drink depends on personal preferences. Both wine and beer go well with game.
The chef himself prefers fruit juices made from locally grown fruit, and there is a wide selection to choose from. “I buy my own apple juice from Nyhuus gard, an apple orchard in Telemark. They harvest the apples just before they are fully ripe, which give them a perfectly balanced sweetness. Besides, the juice helps break down the fat in the mouth,” Brimi concludes.
Wild berries can also add a nice touch – as a side dish to the meal itself or as a light dessert to round it off. Cloudberries with whipped cream can be the ultimate finishing touch to a tasty game dish.
You can buy game meat from local hunters in most Norwegian grocery stores. Throughout the country, you will also find a number of farm shops and farmers’ markets where you can get both unprocessed and processed meat – perfect for your packed lunch or for cooking at home.
Norway has a wealth of excellent eateries and restaurants where they serve game as traditional home cooking or even as haute cuisine. Some places even offer new and exotic dishes such as reindeer pizza with chanterelles, moose burgers, or game kebabs.
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