I live in Finsbury Park, North London – it’s very up and coming apparently. We now boast a Subway sandwich shop AND a Costa Coffee. So there!
But take a 10-minute magical journey away from the mosque, the abandoned Lidl bags, the drunks and the permanently-flooded intersection outside the Twelve Pins pub, across lovely Clissold Park and you enter, almost Narnia-like, a magic kingdom of indie record shops, non-chain clothes stores and organic cafes, where people wear Birkenstocks with pride and children are pushed proudly in their designer prams by their Guardian-clutching parents: Stoke Newington.
And it’s here you’ll find 32-year old Ole Martin Hansen, who’s just your average 6ft 6″ Norwegian salmon smoker and musician, so I popped across the park last week to pick his brains on a variety of subjects including his top tips if you’re heading to his homeland.
Ole Martin Hansen at his smoke house in Stoke Newington
Where are you from in Norway?
I’m from the north but grew up near Stavanger in a place called Sandnes, which I called “Sadness” because it’s very industrial. I found people there are very small minded whereas London is great in terms of its multi culturalism.
How did you end up here?
I was studying and playing music – I’ve played the accordion since I was five – and set up an experimental music workshop in Stavanger just jamming and working with bands, but I had a friend who was in London studying Sound Arts at the London College of Printing, so I came over here to do that. Surviving as an artist in London usually means 30% work for your art and then 70% work just to pay the rent so I decided to do something 100% that I wanted to so I could fund my own art in the future, so here I am and it’s been nearly three years now.
The smoking room at the back is an old boiler room from the 50s, which was completely filled up with garbage when I first got here, but it’s connected to a chimney so I thought this was the perfect space for a smoking chamber. I had a budget of £300 so it was kind of mission impossible but I went for it. It’s very close to art – you have to be creative and use all your skills.
My great grandfather used to smoke salmon in Kirkenes and my grandfather, who was an engineer with the mines up in the north, he took over and my chamber is the same design as his.
He believed the salmon should hang in the sea air and sway in the wind for 12 hours. As they were still therefore moving he reckoned they weren’t completely dead so there was something happening to their protein and the enzymes. It’s a beautiful thought, and maybe it’s not the case, but I think it adds to the story and the experience. When something moves there’s energy being added to it so I’ve started playing Edvard Greig and my own little jams to the salmon when they’re hanging.
I’m smoking several tonnes of salmon a year and sell to restaurants, directly at markets such as Broadway Market and shops like Melrose and Morgan and Daylesford Organic and elsewhere. It’s all in hand-wrapped packs, which takes a lot of effort, so it’s all about aesthetics and being tactile. And then there are private orders from all over the world, as far away as Kuwait.
The salmon is sourced from a family-owned farm in the Faroe Islands – from people who care what they do and how the salmon are treated, the wood chips are from Denmark and the salt comes from Guérande in France.
Where are your favourite places to visit in Norway?
I love Lofoten – it’s the Alps of the north, so beautiful. The people are great, the scenery is lovely. You can go fishing and catch your own cod, poach it with wild garlic and butter and serve with potatoes and then just fall asleep. Just rent a rowing boat, you’re guaranteed to catch fish. And if you don’t fancy that, try lamb and cabbage – just layer lamb, then cabbage, lamb, then cabbage, and simmer away – delicious. And in summer the berries are amazing.
We’re very lucky in Norway to have a huge network of cabins, run by a non-profit organisation, the Norwegian Trekking Association. All based on trust. Leave them as you’d wish to find them. No mobile signal. After a week you don’t want to come back. I’d definitely recommend those.
A network of cheap cabins for hikers and tourists across the country - Norway? Yes way!
Where’s your favourite place to travel?
I go down to Biarritz in France but my favourite favourite place has to be Istanbul. It’s such a great city – you’ve got the sea, the Bosphorus, the islands, the wooden houses, all the history, and of course loads and loads of culture.
wwww.hansen-lydersen.com , www.visitnorway.com, www.norwegian.com
Ole plays Edvard Grieg and his own musical jams to his salmon while they're hanging.