Soon after I arrived in Sweden, I discerned that meatballs are pretty much regarded as the national dish. They are to be found absolutely everywhere, in every context imaginable. I have encountered them in smart restaurants such as Ulla Windblahs (https://www.ullawinbladh.se/en ) on Djursholm island in the centre of Stockholm, as part of their regular menu and their splendid Christmas buffet, and at Restaurant Pelikan (www.pelikan.se/en/ ) on Södermalm. I have also found Swedish meatballs served out in the country, at various sort of eateries ranging from lakeside weekend retreats to inns and pensions.
Typically, they are served in a delicious brown gravy, with lingonberry sauce and mashed potatoes on the side. The popular Swedish furniture and homeware emporium, IKEA, has a restaurant where this classic dish is served as a tasty and wholesome meal. I have seen them enjoyed as a delicious main course smothered in rich creamy gravy, or as deep-fried snacks served at cocktail parties.
The first time I tasted Swedish meatballs was on my very first day in Stockholm, newly arrived after long flights from Johannesburg, South Africa. Eager to see Gamla Stan – the Old Town – I persuaded my husband to take me straight there for supper. Of course I chose this popular dish – and did not like it! These meatballs had been made with an exotic mixture of minced wild boar, beef and elk meat, which sounded very tempting. But the gamey flavour was not to my taste, and I was disappointed. Subsequent tastings, however, have been more successful. The typical combination of beef and pork meat is more universally available – and more to my taste. Different frozen brands, for easy convenience, can be found in the local supermarkets, with varying degrees of textures and flavours. I avoid those tasting too “bready”.
Swedish meatballs are sometimes flavoured with spices, such as nutmeg or cardamom. They are usually served with potatismos (mashed potatoes), and lingonberry jam, although I have sometimes encountered them served with cranberry or redcurrant jelly or jam.
Vegetable oil for frying
1 large onion, finely chopped
170 ml milk
4 slices of white bread, without crusts, finely crumbled (a food processor is quick and easy)
450 g pork mince
680 g lean beef mince
Salt and pepper
90 g butter
45 g flour
1 litre stock
140 ml sour cream or low fat crème fraîche
Salt and pepper to taste
- Fry the chopped onion in the oil until soft, and remove from heat.
- Soak the bread and milk in a large bowl until soft but not too mushy.
- Stir the cooled onions into this mixture, then add the eggs, minced meats, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
- Shape the mixture into balls by hand.
- Fry the meatballs in batches in hot oil until browned on all sides, and set aside.
- Then make the gravy: first blend the flour and melted butter together, and add the stock slowly and carefully, using a whisk to avoid forming lumps. Cook until it turns into a smooth rich texture.
- Add the meatballs to the gravy and simmer until cooked through.
- Stir in the sour cream or crème fraîche.