Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Köttbullar med gräddsås (Swedish meatballs and...erm... 'gravy')

Being married to a Swede, it was inevitable that I should have to learn to make these early on. Of course, when we moved to the UK and had access to Ikea, we were able to buy frozen meatballs by the bag. Home made ones are still better, though! When I make them, I make a double batch and freeze half for later use.

They can be fried (my mother-in-law fries hers... in lashings of butter, of course), but I find that takes forever when you are cooking large enough quantities for three viking appetites, so I do mine in the oven. Sacrilege!

Oh, and remember what I said about the traditional Swedish diet not being healthy? You have been warned.

First let's get those meatballs going, then we'll make a start on the sauce (which, by the way, translates as 'cream sauce').

Oven temperature

500g minced beef
500g minced pork
1 egg
200-300ml cream-and-water mixture (or the slightly healthier option of just using milk, as I do)
1 small onion, finely chopped
100ml breadcrumbs (or rusk flour if it's available in your area)
2 cold, boiled potatoes
Butter, margarine or oil for frying/baking (we'll come to that in a bit)
Salt and white pepper to taste
5ml ground allspice (this, dear friends, is the critical ingredient that gives the meatballs their 'Swedish' taste)


I roll them in flour as I go
  • Traditionally, you're supposed to saute the onion in butter until golden, but a healthier option is to sweat them in the microwave (place in glass bowl, cover with pierced clingfilm and nuke 'em for about a minute or so). You decide.
  • Peel and mash the potato.
  • Moisten the bread crumbs (or rusk flour) with a little water.
  • Mix the meats, egg, breadcrumbs, potato, flour and seasonings.
  • Add a little of the cream-and-water/milk at a time, until you get a manageable consistency. You might not have to add all of it, but don't despair, you can use what's left for the gräddsås.
  • Shape it into balls with wet hands (so that the mixture doesn't stick too much). You're looking for something about the size of a golf/squash/table tennis ball.
  • Place on a lightly floured chopping board. I tend to roll each ball in flour as I go. I use a small tupperware container for the purpose.
  • I top each one with a tiny knob of butter
  • Traditionally, you are now supposed to fry them slowly in butter (yes, butter, I kid you not!). But I tend to place them in a baking tray. I spray the tray first with Fry Light, but you could grease it, or cover the bottom with a thin layer of oil. Then, if I'm feeling decadent, I top each one each with a tiny knob of butter. I bake them in the oven for about 20 or so minutes, turning every now and then, to ensure even(ish) cooking. Because you have used pork, it is vital that the meatballs are cooked right through.
While those are in the oven, let's get cracking on the sauce, shall we?

100ml cream or milk (or half of each)
200ml beef stock
15ml cornflour
Salt and white pepper to taste

  • You're supposed to include the scrapings from the frying pan, but since we don't have any, we will make do without. If, however, you've decided to go the traditional route, make up the sauce in the frying pan, starting by swirling the (boiling) beef stock in the pan to loosen up all those little loose bits that remain in the pan.
  • Bring the beef stock to the boil in a small saucepan.
  • Add a little water to the cornflour and mix into a smooth paste. Add this to the stock and stir until thickened.
  • Remove from the heat and add the cream.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve with boiled baby potatoes and lingonsylt (if you can get it). If you can't get your hands on lingonsylt, cranberry sauce makes a fair substitute.

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