Cranberry soup Karpalokiisseli - a shiny red Christmas dessert


Cranberry soup Karpalokiisseli - traditional Finnish dessert

This gloriously red dessert is called Kiisseli, which is the Finnish group name to all berry and fruit based dessert soups where - guess what - fruit/berries are boiled in water until all juice comes out and the juice is then thickened with corn or potato starch. This particular one is Cranberry Soup, Karpalokiisseli.

The English translation for Kiisseli is Kissel, my online sources tell me, but I've never heard anyone mention the word Kissel in an English conversation. The roots of the dish are somewhere in the deep and berry-rich forests of Eastern Europe.

Kiisseli can be smooth or contain whole berries or pieces of fruit and berries. The thickness of Kiisseli can vary. The thin soups can be drunk like smoothies although they are slightly slimy in consistency (yum) or eaten with muesli, porridge or cereal. The thicker ones are eaten with milk or cream. The thicker the better I think, although maybe there is a limit. As a young wife my mum was quite gung ho with the potato flour apparently and often the kiisseli was cut to slices with a knife. Who says that's not a legitimate way to eat soup. The International Soup Police?

We had a lot, I mean a lot, of kiisseli as kids. It was a quick, easy and healthy dessert. Mum would mostly use berries that we picked ourselves during the summer from the forest or our garden and froze to last for all winter. Bilberry soup was popular. Bilberries grow everywhere. Bilberry - Mustikka - was about the only word an American exchange student learned while staying with us over a month one summer. She also learned the word No in Finnish and used her newly discovered linguistic repertoire to tell us she'd had enough of bilberries. It was a very good year for bilberries and we ate them in all possible ways and formats. Ever hear of bilberry sausage? No, me neither.

Prune soup (or raisin soup - euch) is a traditional Christmas food served with rice porridge. And cherry, cranberry or beautiful golden arctic cloudberry soup served with whipped cream would do for very fine dining situations. Or maybe not very fine dining, but when grandparents come over or similar. I particularly love cranberry soup. It has such a lovely elegant taste, sour and sweet and robust and delicate all at the same time. Cranberries are a traditional Christmas berry and the soup is a gorgeous, vibrant red, so I made this for us this Christmas Eve.

Or I started it and mum finished the job as I was busy with other dinner prep and she's the kiisseli-master anyway. I did keep an eye on the use of potato flour though.

I served the soup in this cute heart shaped ceramic bowl which I got from my younger stepson for Christmas last year. The lid is placed at a rakish angle to not only add to the sex appeal of the dish but to hide the missing handle. Somewhere on the way from the shop to under our tree the package had had a little knock (teenage boys and china, eh) and the handle had broken. That just makes it all the more special.

Cranberry soup Karpalokiisseli in a heart shaped bowl
You'd never know.

Cranberry Soup (serves 4)

1.5 - 2 cups cranberries
1 l water
0.8 cup sugar
4 tbsp potato flour (or more or less depending on how thick you like it)

Add berries and water into a saucepan and bring to boil. Let them boil on low heat until the berries are soft, about 25-30 minutes. Use a potato masher or a flat bottomed cup to press down the berries to squeeze out all the juice and flavour. Pour the juice through a sieve into another pan, squeeze out all the juice from the berries pressing them with a spoon and then discard the berries.

Add the sugar and bring the juice back to boil. Mix the potato flour with a small splash of water until you have a smooth runny paste. Pour the flour paste slowly and steadily into the boiling juice mixing all the time. Let it bubble a few times and take off heat. It should be nicely thickened now.

Pour into a serving dish or individual dessert  bowls. Serve with cream or whipped cream. You can decorate with shavings of white chocolate and some fresh cranberries.

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