Some days need a little nostalgia to brighten up the table and connect us to another time and place. Or perhaps we just need days to remind us that the table is an evolutionary setting, changing and ever expanding. Sometimes dishes get forgotten or dismissed. Sometimes they remain. I suppose the outcome of any dish is left up to the one in the kitchen.
I like to celebrate tradition and innovation, as both are important. Lately though, I’ve been doing a bit more innovation in my kitchen. So, while reading a cookbook from Sør-Trøndelag, I came across a traditional dessert which caught my attention. It’s one of those dishes that remind people of their childhood; from school lunches to visits with the grandparents. Created out of what was lying around the kitchen. Simple ingredients combined to make something a little special, if not even magical. Magical because before the introduction of the electric whisk, women would whisk away by hand for an hour or two just to get the right consistency. A job which now takes us only a couple of minutes, leaving us hand-free and able to enjoy a moment to ourselves.
Russedessert or russepudding, as Norwegians refer to is as, is a dessert based on semolina and berry juice. The dessert is also known as klappgröt or trollgröt in Sweden and vispgröt in Finland. The history of the dish in Norway is not well documented but has been found in cookbooks during the 1960s and 1920s/1930s. Many people recreating the dessert refer to it as a memory from childhood, often stumbled across again in family recipes. I imagine this dessert goes further back than the 20th century. The name ‘russe’ is curious, it could refer to the color of the dish after it is whipped or possibly the process of whipping. Some even question its connection to Russland (Russia). Nevertheless, while its origins might be a little unclear, the dish remains a childhood favorite.
The heart of the dessert is the cordial, or saft. Saft has been a part of the Norwegian table for centuries and continues to be made at home. This is because berries are an important part of the Norwegian diet and contain vitamins which are important throughout the year. They are also widely available in nature to be picked and most people grow berries in their own gardens. As we are spoiled for choice here in the mountains of Norway, we often make a variety of different flavors from raspberries to cranberries to currants and stawberries. I like the subtle flavor of blueberry, and therefore I have included a recipe for blueberry saft, which you can adapt to include the berry of your choice.
The fluffy and velvety texture and bright color of this dessert makes it dreamy-like. And while I made this with blueberry juice, as that is what I had made a few weeks earlier, you can certainly use any flavor you desire. This is such a simple and fun dessert, you may wish to serve it for family and friends on a more-frequent basis.
Russedessert and Blåbærsaft
- 3 dl homemade saft/cordial/concentrated juice (see recipe below)
- 3 dl water
- 5 Tb fine semolina
- Sugar to taste
- 1kg (2.2lbs) fresh blueberries
- 4 dl (1.6 cups) water
- 400g (2 cups) sugar per liter (4 ¼ cups) of saft
In a medium pot, combine the saft/juice and the water and bring to a boil over medium heat. If the mixture requires more sweetness, you can add a bit of sugar to taste. Stir in the semolina, whisking to prevent any clumps from forming. On a low simmer, continue to whisk the porridge for about 15 minutes until it has thickened.
Remove the pot from the heat and transfer to a sink filled with cold water. Stir the porridge until it has cooled down. When it is completely cooled, place the porridge in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk it on medium speed for about 10 minutes. The color should lighten and the texture will become airy and fluffy.
Serve with cream, vanilla sauce and sugar.
To make the blåbærsaft, you will need clean and rinse the blueberries. In a pot large enough to fit all the berries, bring the water to a boil. After the water has begun to boil, add the berries and cover with a lid. It is not recommended to stir the mixture more than once or twice to keep the berries intact. Allow the berries to cook for around 10 minutes.
Take a large sieve lined with a cheesecloth and strain the berries over a large container. Allow the berries to strain for at least half an hour.
When the berries have finished straining, measure the strained juice. You will need about 400g (2 cups) of sugar per liter (4 1/4 cups) of juice. Pour the juice into a clean pot and add the required amount of sugar. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer for a few more minutes.
Carefully transfer the juice to sterilized bottles and seal. Leave to cool.
To serve, add a little bit of the saft/concentrated juice to a glass and add water to taste. Or use in the russedessert.