A big reason why I started this blog, was to research and share information, not just about Norwegian cuisine, but the history of our food, and more importantly, why certain recipes came about. Today’s dish is so old school I suspect younger people in Norway today might not even have heard of it, but that is what makes it so fun and interesgin! Why should we deprive this generation of something delicious and an interesting piece of our culture? There are many things we can do to adjust recipes to fit our current lifestyle without missing the essence of our history and traditions. I feel strongly about connecting with my roots and getting a taste of what my grandparents and forefathers used to eat, without resorting to animal ingredients :)
Marte Knipe (or Marte Kneben, as it is called in some parts of the country), made from sago is a play on the word “knepent”, meaning ‘scarce’ – as this recipe has very few ingredients. The modern recipe includes raisins and almonds, but we can assume that these ingredients were snuck in at a later stage. Another version of this dessert is simply referred to as “sagogrynspudding” (a pudding made from sago pearls).
Many people might think of the sago grain as tapioca. Nobody is quite sure how old this recipe is, but sago has been in use in Norway since the 17th century, according to food critic Henry Notaker, and was a popular ingredient in soups and puddings for its thickening ability, as it is a starch. While the tapioca that is found on the shelves today is made from potato flour, the tapioca back in the day was made from far more exotic ingredients.
Real sago is a starch extracted from the spongy centre, or pith, of various tropical palm stems, especially Metroxylon sagu. The sago is then dried and ground into flour, and made into pearls. The name ‘sago’ comes from the word sagu, which is Malaysian for “ground pith”. Tapioca, then – is a substitute, since it’s made from potato flour.
Real sago, according to old cookbooks, requires a long cooking time – up to two hours. True sago pearls are white, but the older they get, they turn a reddish color. Previously, it was possible to buy red sago from potato flour , but production has since stopped, most likely because the coloring agent used, was no longer legal in food products. If you wander into Asian food stores, you can still see tapioca pearls in all colors of the rainbow.
Sago pearls bought in Norway that are made from potato flour, contain no additives and are gluten free and otherwise free of any allergens. If buying them in the United States, I would select an organic brand to make sure they are as “clean” as possible.
This recipe is also dairy free, as I’ve made it with almond milk (you can use any plant based milk you want, such as cashew, soy, hazelnut, quinoa, etc.). Although the traditional accompanying sauce is made from cherries, you can add any berries or fruit to your liking, such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, mango, peaches, apricots, etc. Use your imagination and get a taste of Norwegian history!
4 cups of almond milk
1/2 cup sago pearls
1/4 cup raisins
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup toasted almonds
2 tsp rum or rum extract
300 grams or 1 1/2 cup frozen cherries
1 1/2 cup water
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp potato flour
6 tbsp water to mix in with potato flour
1/4 cup of toasted, sliced almonds for topping
To make the pudding, combine the sago pearls with the almond (or plant based milk of your choice) milk in a pot and stir over medium heat until it comes to slightly under a boil. Let the mixture cook on low to medium heat for about 15 minutes.
Add the raisins, sugar and rum (extract). Pour the pudding into a serving bowl and let cool for a good while before serving.
To make the sauce, combine the 6 tbsps of water with the potato flour in a small cup, and set aside. Combine cherries, water and sugar in a small pot and cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the potato flour and combine until lump free. Take off the heat and slowly whisk in the stream of the potato flour-water mixture until a rich and smooth sauce forms. Bring the sauce up to a quick bowl right before it’s cooled off and served.
Photo Credit: Synøve Dreyer
Information source for this blog post from aperitif.no