A Norwegian Grandmother’s Favorite Dessert

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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

MARTE KNIPE

Serves 4

Pudding:

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

Cherry Sauce:

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

Directions:

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.

Marte-KnipeSynoveDreyer

Photo Credit: Synøve Dreyer

Information source for this blog post  from aperitif.no

Celebrating Norwegian Easter With an Orange Cake

There would simply be no Easter in Norway without oranges. What a peculiar food to mention in the same sentence as Norwegian cuisine, you might think. Not so.  Here’s a fun fact to kick off with:  Norway is among the top importers of oranges, and during Easter, Norwegians double their consumption of this succulent, orange fruit and devour over 20 million oranges.  Oranges from Spain dominate, but Israel and Egypt are also important countries from which we import the fruit.

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Up until 1956 there was an import restriction in Norway of oranges, and they were a rare and expensive treat at the time.  When the regulation disappeared, the sale of oranges sky rocketed. Norwegian prefer sweeter oranges, and these typically appear at the end of the citrus season, which so happens to be around Easter; hence the peak season for oranges and  the holiday season fell together and tradition was made.  The color of the orange also represents the sun, and symbolizes the switch between winter and summer…. lighter times are ahead when Easter arrives!

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As many of you know, Norway is fortunate to have a plethora of majestic mountains, and Norwegians are very good at taking advantage of the nature surrounding them. Most people own cabins, and for Easter this is the preferred destination to spend the holiday, skiing, suntanning, eating great food and enjoying time with family and friends. Carrying oranges in backpacks while on a skiing trip is a well known Norwegian tradition. There is probably nothing more satisfying than sitting down at the top of a mountain after a long, beautiful, but physically challenging cross country skiing trip, opening up my back pack, peel an orange and sink my teeth into the sweet, juicy fruit. One orange covers your daily requirement for C-vitamins, but don’t think Norwegians are too healthy. We also consumer millions of “Kvikklunsj” (Norwegians’ version of Kit Kat, although of course ten times better:) along with truckloads of marzipan candies during the holiday.

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Other than enjoying oranges on their own in the breathtaking outdoors or mountainside, there are many other ways to use oranges in cooking. I experimented with a couple of different recipes for an orange cake earlier in the week as I longingly looked at photos from my friends in Norway who had already taken off for the holiday to enjoy the nature, food, and the company of friends and family.

My first recipe was a gluten free cake made with chickpea flour and polenta – this turned out to be quite crumbly, not too sweet and a more ‘casual’ cake.  The second recipe I tested included regular all purpose wheat flour but had very little fat, no butter, but just  a little oil and lots of orange juice. This turned out super juicy, light and fluffy, and I’m still reeling from the deliciousness of it. Both cakes serve a purpose, so I wanted to include both recipes for these here, so you can decide what you are in the mood for:  a daily treat (the polenta cake) or get decadent (the latter)!   The best thing about both is that they are super easy and takes five minutes to put together. Whichever one you choose, you are in for a treat – decorate with fresh oranges on top of each one to make it colorful, and if you are creative enough, you may even be able to sneak a piece in your backpack if you go out hiking or skiing this weekend! 🙂  Happy Easter everyone!

POLENTA ORANGE CAKE

1 stick vegan butter (about 8 tbsp)

100 grams or 1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup almond milk or other vegetable based milk

zest from 1/2 an orange

1/2 cup polenta

3/4 cup chickpea flour

1 rounded tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 400F. Dress an oiled 8-inch spring form cake pan with parchment paper at the bottom.

In a standmixer, whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Slowly add in the almond milk, orange zest, polenta, chickpea flour, and baking soda until a smooth batter forms.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake form and baking in the middle of the oven for about 20-25 minutes.

Let cool on a rack while preparing the glaze (Recipe further down, you can use the same glaze for both cakes).

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JUICY ORANGE CAKE

350 grams/1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

350 grams/ 1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 3/4 cup freshly pressed orange juice

1/2 cup rapeseed or other neutral, organic vegetable oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

zest from one orange

2 tsp vanilla extract

Handful of toasted walnuts, chopped for decorating (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Dress a 10 inch round spring form cake pan with parchment paper and oil lightly the bottom and sides of the pan.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and mix them into the dry ingredients until a smooth batter forms. Pour into the prepared cake pan.

paaskekakeroere

Bake in the middle of the oven for 40-45 minutes, depending on your oven.  The cake should be golden on the top and firm on the edges, use a cake tester to determine when done. Cool on a rack while you prepare the orange glaze.

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Orange Glaze: 

1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

juice from one orange (give or take)

1 tsp orange zest

Place confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl with orange rind and add orange juice until you get a smooth glaze to your desired consistency.

Garnish both cakes with added orange zest, fresh blood orange slices, and/or chopped nuts of your choice (I omitted the nuts).

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