Betasuppe is a traditional soup filled with meat and vegetables. The word “beta” tells us that the ingredients in the soup “suppe” shall be in small, diced pieces. There are many variations of the recipe but, in general, it consists of vegetables with lightly salted meat, such as lamb or pork, or fresh meat of beef and lamb or even a combination of both. Some recipes also include barley and dried peas.
In light of current events with the outbreak of Covid-19, we find ourselves, like many around the world, tucked in at home for the upcoming weeks. Meal planning and organizing the pantry have become a necessary and quite enjoyable exercise.
I started by scouring the fridge to see what we had on hand. The vegetable trays were filled with a good mix of root vegetables and back in the corner, I found some kjøttpølser, meat sausages, that needed to be used up. Together, they would make a hearty, flavorsome and satisfying soup. Perfect for days like these.
As I was looking into betasuppe, I came aross a few articles written about the 2015 unveiling of a plaque at the Margaret Church in Oslo in honor of “svenskesuppe”. The reasoning behind the distinction is that during WWII, the Swedish church was the headquarters for Swedish aid from 1942 to 1945. It was here that 5,000 children and young people received soup every day, saving many from malnutrition and disease. They offered three varieties of soups: havresuppe “oat soup”, ertesuppe “pea soup” and betasuppe. The latter being the one most well remembered, with those receiving a small piece of meat feeling quite lucky.
In honor of this incredible service, a blue plaque can be seen on the wall of the Margaret Church in Hammersborg. Blue signs, such as this, serve as a reminder about people, events or buildings that had an impact on the development of society.
I can’t help but find this rather timely as we find ourselves facing a global pandemic. While the situation is completely different, the story serves as a wonderful reminder of the power of serving each other and meeting basic needs to aid in health and safety. Humanity is at its best when we look beyond ourselves and care for one another.
So, as I share this soup and countless other meals with my family, I’ll count our blessings, being grateful for the nourishment they provide, and think about the ways we can serve each other in times like these and in times of prosperity.
The wonderful thing about betasuppe is that you can use what you have on hand. If you don’t have enough of something, just alter the ingredients and amounts to suit. If using salted meats, ensure you soak them in cold water overnight. If using sausages and you can’t get a hold of Norwegian meat sausages, look for short, plump ones like knockwurst.
A helping of flatbread with butter and, if you like, a tall glass of milk would be a great – traditional – accompaniment.
- 2.2 pounds (1 kg) lightly salted lamb/mutton or 2 small ham hocks or 4 large sausages, cut into cubes
- 1 leek, cleaned and sliced
- ½ celery root (about 2 cups), peeled and cut into cubes
- ½ rutabaga (about 2 cups), peeled and cut into cubes
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into cubes
- 1 pound (450 g) potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
- 8 ½ cups (2 liters) meat broth
*If using salted meat, soak overnight and strain the water when ready to use. Cover the meat with fresh, cold water and bring to a gentle simmer over low heat for 2 to 3 hours, or until the meat falls from the bone. Strain, reserve the broth for the soup, pull away the meat then set aside and discard any bones and fat.
In a large pot or dutch oven, bring the leek, celery root, rutabaga, carrots, potatoes and broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and gently simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Add the cooked meat or sausage and cook for 10 minutes or longer as desired, until the flavors have combined.
Ladle into individual bowls and serve with flatbread and butter.