Smalahove is undoubtedly one of the weirdest recipes in the world but whilst it might look slightly disturbing, it is basically just lamb and the more meatier parts of the head taste exactly like lamb.
There is a traditional, authentic way to cook smalahove, as described in the recipe below. Preparation is to first leave it to soak in a pot of water for 24 hours, then create a brine and leave for a further 24 hours, and then finally to boil it.
There are different sides that can be served with Smalahove but most common is mashed potatoes and rutabaga, or akvavit.
For this recipe we will be using potatoes and rutabaga, but feel free to try alternative sides if you like.
Of course, it can be difficult to get your hands on a sheep head if you’re not in Norway at Christmas, but you can speak to your local butcher to see if it is something they might provide for you to be able to cook Smalahove for yourself.
Top tip: the eyes and ears are often eaten first as these are the fattiest bits of the head, but the most delicious bits are usually the cheek and the tongue!
Smalahove is a bizarre traditional Norwegian recipe of sheeps head, usually eaten on the Sunday before Christmas.
- Water - 5L
- Salt - 1kg
- Sugar - 1 cup
- Saltpetre - 3 tsp
- Rutabagas - 1kg
- Potatoes - 4
- Butter - 100g
- Sugar - 1tsp
- Nutmeg - 2tsp
- White pepper - 2tsp
- Mutton stock - 1 cup
- Cream - 2 tbsp
- 1 kg (2 ¼ pounds) rutabagas
- Take a large, sharp knife and cut the sheep's head in half lengthwise.
- Fill a large cooking pot with cold water and place the head in pot, leave for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours combine 4L of water with 1kg of salt, 1 cup of sugar and 3 tsp of saltpetre in order to make a brine.
- Dry the sheep’s head well and then place in to the brine mixture to sit for a further 24 hours.
- Leave to dry on a rack before placing it in a fresh pan of boiling water. Cover and cook for 1 hour.
- Whilst the sheep's head is cooking, peel and chop the potatoes and rutabaga and boil together in a pot of water for 30 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes and rutabaga, nutmeg, white pepper, mutton stock, butter and cream, and mash to a creamy consistency. Salt to taste.
- Take the sheep’s head out of the pan and serve immediately with the mashed potatoes and rutabaga.
A serving is usually half a sheep’s head per person and 2 ladles of mashed rutabaga/potatoes.
In other recipes (or smalahove-related dishes) they will utilise the brain by scooping it out and frying it in oil. In fact, fried smalahove is equally as popular as boiled.
Once you have cooked your smalahove you can serve it to your guests (make sure to warn them first!), with a glass of Akvavit, a Scandinavian spirit.
How to eat Smalahove
Cooking and eating a sheep’s head originates in the peasantry in Norway who would tend to eat whatever food was available.
However, in modern times, smalahove is considered a delicacy. Furthermore, it has received a welcome revival due to tourists visiting Norway wishing to try the dish as a thrill.
Eating peculiar parts of an animal is surprisingly more common than you may have thought. Cultures around the world are known to eat animal parts as strange as bull’s testicles, moose heart or goat’s intestines.