Betasuppe is a soup I often think of as pre-packaged and store bought – something my mom would bring along to our cabin in the mountains during the winter when we needed something quick, easy to prepare and warm (our cabin at the time only had cold running water and no real kitchen to speak of other than a small stove). Betasuppe is a classic example of what we would call “winter food” in Norway, created for cold days and definitely worth waiting for.
Although store purchased, this particular soup was surprisingly delicious and I always looked forward to it, as it was one of the few times my mom would actually use something pre-made. To me, it was different and exciting. She would sometimes add additional vegetables and bits of meat to it to make it more her own, and also to make it heartier. Often we would have Norwegian pancakes along with the betasuppe – probably to make the meal even more substantial, but this pairing is actually incredibly tasty. The sweetness of the pancakes and the saltiness of the betasuppe worked wonders on my palate!
“Beta” means “bits” in Norwegian and “suppe” as you can imagine, is Norwegian for “soup”, hence the soup consists of bits and pieces of different vegetables, meats and /or sausages. Classic vegetables will include yellow peas, carrots, rutabaga, potatoes, green onions and barley. The meat is often mutton and the sausages pork. Typically, meat bones will be added to the broth (water) to create a deep flavor and the soup will simmer for hours on the stove, developing an amazing aroma in the cabin. Coming from the refreshingly cold, clean, and crisp mountain air outside after a long ski trip, and in to the warm kitchen where my mom would be cooking, is a memory that I still hold on to today. Here’s a picture of the fireplace in my family’s cabin:
Our “dining room” where we enjoyed countless delicious meals prepared by my mother:
To Norwegians, soup serves as a main meal, not so much a starter. It’s a symbol of every day life – and in the winter months of January, February and March there are plenty of those! A bowl of warm soup is a reason to gather people around the table and into our homes, even on cold and dark arctic nights. This soup is however just as often prepared outdoors as indoors, as the title of this blog post indicates.
Perfect for cooking over a live fire when hiking, skiing or enjoying nature, I thought it fitting to include a recipe for betasuppe this week when so many Norwegians are on vacations in the mountains, skiing, sunbathing and enjoying great food and drink. Betasuppe is definitely on many people’s repertoire around this time, because of the ease of preparing but still packs a lot of flavor.
Betasuppe is also a popular food served in the Norwegian Seamen’s Churches around the world – a home away from home for Norwegian expats. A lot of homesickness has been cured around a steaming hot bowl of betasuppe and freshly baked Norwegian bread. Something so simple and inexpensive to make, but yet incredibly satisfying and heartwarming to eat is bound to remain a classic staple of Norwegian cooking.
I like my betasuppe to include sausages, but you can use any type of meat or just vegetables too if you prefer. Remember: bits (beta) and pieces of whatever you have will do just fine!
1 lb smoked sausage such as Kielbasa
3 slices bacon
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large rutabaga, peeled and diced (you can also use turnip)
3 small parsnips, peeled and diced
1/2 celery root, peeled and diced
1 lb yukon gold potatoes, diced
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 quart chicken stock plus 2 cups water
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
4-5 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
2 bay leaves
salt, pepper to taste
Add the hamhock to some water in a pot, add the bay leaves and bring to a boil, reduce and let simmer for 2-3 hours. Let the meat cool off for a bit in the stock before picking it/taking it out of the stock.
In a separate large pot, add the strips of bacon and saute until fat renders off, and remove bacon and set aside. If need be, add a bit of oil to the pan (You should have bacon fat in bottom of pan), and add all your vegetables, season with salt and pepper saute for about 10 minutes or so. Add the stock from the other pot, add the sprigs thyme and let the vegetables cook until tender, about 20 minutes or so. (If you want to add yellow peas, you can add these into the stock and cook for 45 min-1 hour before adding the vegetables). Finally, add in the meat and the sliced sausage, and let them heat up in the soup. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and serve with a nice fresh loaf of bread or flatbrød or Norwegian pancakes! The recipe for Norwegian pancakes you can get in my previous post about pancakes here.
Photo Credit: Aperitif.no