There’s a certain joy that comes from being able to watch another person prepare a dish. Being the student and able to just listen and learn and see the creativity of another person unfold. I am lucky to have many friends and neighbors who are wonderful cooks and who are happy to share their recipes and techniques with me. One such friend is the beautiful and kind Maj-Lis.
Maj-Lis is already busy in the kitchen when I come through her door. Her hands are dusted in flour and she greets me with a warm hug and smile before she returns quickly to her countertops to carry on kneading the dough.
She is making a couple of her specialties and dedicating the majority of the day to the kitchen. The menu consists of creamy jordskokksuppe (Jerusalem artichoke soup), homemade valnøttbrød (walnut bread) and her famous Glitreboller (sweet pastry filled with cinnamon, sugar and raisins and topped with almonds). She shares the stories about each recipe and works her way between each dish as I sit back and listen. While the dough rises, she cuts the Jerusalem artichokes. While the soup is on, she prepares the boller.
Her passion for food is contagious. She, like many Norwegians, maintain traditions in her cooking while also bringing in influences from other cultures. Her home is an example of this. True to her Norwegian roots and family’s history yet with pieces pertaining to her family’s travels and passions. A piece of history with an explorer’s touch.
The chime of the aged bell rings in an old tradition. The food is ready. The table is set. The drinks are poured and the soup is presented.
We sit down to sample her delicious spread. Fresh baked bread with pieces of walnut and raisins, butter already melting into it. The smell of the sweet buns filling the air. And the simple and airy jordskokksuppe. The soup is nutty and slightly sweet. It’s rich in flavor, but light in texture. The dried, wild mushrooms bring the forest into the dish, making it elegant and rustic. It’s divine, just like the setting in which we are eating it.
Jersulaem artichokes, known as jordskokk in Norwegian, were first cultivated by the Native Americans as a food source. Later, they were brought to France by the explorer Samuel de Champlain and became cultivated throughout Europe, eventually making their way to Scandinavia. The earliest record of the Jerusalem artichoke in Norway was described in 1694. The Norwegian name jordskokk is an abbreviated version of jordartiskokk meaning ‘soil artichoke’, which is derived from the German name erdartischoke. (Source)
In the 1800s, when the potato began to take a hold in Norwegian cooking, the Jerusalem artichoke fell out of popularity and became less common. Even to this day, the Jerusalem artichoke is available in limited scale and not as well known. The good news is that it is making a comeback, as it should. With its sweet and nutty flavor, it can be eaten raw or cooked. It is also rich in iron, facilitates for an uptake of calcium and is a healthy choice for those with type 2 diabetes.
This rich and flavorful soup is perfect for the cold autumn days and nights and incredibly simple to make. There’s a sweetness to it and it is perfect topped with dried mushrooms or crispy, fried pieces of Jerusalem artichoke. This is a very elegant dish and best served in smaller quantities as an accompaniment or precursor to another dish.
Maj-Lis’s Jordskokksuppe (Creamy Jerusalem Artichoke Soup)
- 250 g (∼1/2 lb) Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into cubes
- 1 litre (4 cups) good quality stock
- 6 dl (2 1/2 cups) whole milk
- 4 dl (∼1 3/4 cup)heavy cream
- 100 g (∼1/2 cup) butter
- Salt & pepper
- Dried, mixed mushrooms
In a large saucepan, combine the stock, milk and cream and bring to a low simmer. Add the pieces of Jerusalem artichoke and simmer until they are tender.
Remove all of the Jerusalem artichoke pieces and place in a blender or food processor. Add the butter and a couple spoonfuls of the soup and puree until no lumps appear. Return this to the soup and blend together. Remove the pan from the heat.
You can fry the dried mushrooms in some good olive oil or leave plain, as Maj-Lis does, and place a couple on top of the soup to serve. This soup is even better the next day.