Greenland is not exactly a place most people would associate with cuisine – yet there are nearly 60,000 people there, living on what is the world’s largest island!
Yes, the vast interior is uninhabitable glacier, but Greenland has a coast where seal and seafood are plentiful and the country is rich in reindeer, musk ox and wild hare as well as a variety of birds such as ptarmigan. Southern Greenland actually does live up to its name as it is truly a green land – agriculture thrives here with many farms and luxuriant vegetables, in contrast to a barren ice world that covers much of Greenland.
So – this is a long-winded way of saying it is time to share a recipe from this isolated and rarely-considered territory (which – at least for now – is still officially administered by Denmark).
Suaasat is pretty much the national dish of Greenland. It is a meat and barley soup traditionally made from seal meat, but also from whale, reindeer, musk ox or sea-birds if seal was unavailable. It is traditionally served at Christmas, though it can be eaten at any time of year.
The soup often includes onions and potatoes and is simply seasoned with salt and pepper or bay leaf. Suaasat is often thickened with rice or by soaking barley in the water overnight so that the starches leach into the water.
The recipe actually includes a number of herbs that are not native to Greenland but that are used plentifully to add additional flavor to the soup. This is a simple recipe to make, Citizens – while Seal is the traditional meat, I have (obviously) offered substitutions for those of us in less Northerly latitudes. Since Suaasat was made with whatever non-fish protein was available, I think my version still hews to authenticity.
Beyond adjusting the herbs and seasonings a bit, I have modified the recipe to use dried Porcini mushrooms instead of the less flavorful mushrooms used in the original recipe. I’ve also added a tiny bit of Juniper berry to add a more “wild” taste to the lamb or venison that would be present if you were using wild game. Feel free to omit it if you prefer authenticity.
“Takanna mamassaqaat” (Here it is, it tastes good)! 😀
Battle on – The Generalissimo
2 ¼ pounds of meat (seal, musk ox, reindeer or, for those of us who don’t live in Greenland, use lamb, beef or venison), diced small
8 ½ cups of water
A scant cup of barley
3 large onions, chopped
1 large handful dried porcini mushrooms
2 large peeled carrots, sliced
2 large potatoes, cut into small dice
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
1 tsp ground juniper berry
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Soak the barley in the water overnight – 1 hour before making the soup, add in the dried porcini mushrooms.
Pour the water into a large pot (leave behind any gritty residue from the mushrooms) and add the meat (as is), the vegetables, the mushrooms, the salt and pepper to taste and the herbs and bring to a simmer, simmering on medium heat until tender (about an hour).
Add the barley, check and correct the seasoning and cook until the soup is thick – another 15 – 30 minutes.