The Ultimate Swedish Meatballs

Brought to the world - in a horrible version - by Swedish furniture giant IKEA, there is much more to this lovely dish than prefabricated and thawed out miniature ping pong balls.
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Any self-respecting Scandinavian food writer must have a good Swedish Meatballs recipe. We are after all talking about a dish that can only be described as The King Of Swedish Cuisine. Brought to the world - in a horrible version - by Swedish furniture giant IKEA, there is much more to this lovely dish than prefabricated and thawed out miniature ping pong balls accompanied by boiled to death potatoes and industrial "cream" sauce en masse.

Served homemade - this ultra classic has a very special place in the hearts of most Swedes. And why shouldn't it? It is after all a miniature version of the entire Swedish cuisine, with many of the classic ingredients that we see across not only Swedish, but Scandinavian food culture. Ground beef. Pickled cucumber. Lingonberries. Mash. Cream sauce. Powerful and smooth at the same time. Simple, but actually still quite refined.

There are as many Swedish meatball recipes as there are Swedish mothers. All with their individual secrets and tweaks, and all claiming position as "the original". Many use a bread and milk mixture to make the meatballs smoother (I don't, as I like 'em chunky), others mix pork and beef to make them lighter (I don't, as I think that brings them too close to the Danish frikadelle). Some season with everything from allspice to nutmeg (I don't, as I think really good beef handles itself perfectly well without it).

This is my personal Swedish Meatball recipe, and it is quite decadent. The meatballs, rich and deep with the flavor of dark beer and beef stock. The pickled cucumbers, with just a little sting from red chili. The mash, so packed with butter it makes the angels of saturated fat sing. Everything accompanied by sweet lingonberries and a velvety smooth cream sauce.

Anything to keep you away from the IKEA version.

Photo By Mads Damgaard

Swedish Meatballs With Cream Sauce And Mash
Serves 4

1 1/3 Ib of ground beef
1 Large onion
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons of beef stock
2 Tablespoons of dark beer

Cream Sauce
1/2 Cup of beef stock
1 Cup of heavy cream
White pepper
1 Tablespoon of organic butter
Thickener to taste
A pinch of sugar

Mashed Potatoes
2 Ib of potatoes
1/4 to 1/2 Cup of warm milk, amount depending on what consistency you like
3 Tablespoons of organic butter

Pickled Cucumber
½ Cucumber
½ Cup of Vinegar
½ Cup of Water
½ Tablespoon of salt
1/3 Cup of sugar
1 Bay leaf
1 Red chili, finely chopped

Lingonberry Jam (can be replaced by store bought jam or redcurrant jelly)
1 1/2 Cups of lingonberries
1 1/2 Cups of sugar

1. Mix water, sugar, salt and vinegar in a large bowl. Whisk until sugar and salt is disolved completely. Add the chopped chili. Finely slice the cucumber, and add to the bowl. Make sure they are completely covered by the fluid. Add bayleaf, and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour (the longer the better).

2. Rinse the lingonberries thoroughly and put them in a bowl. Pour over the sugar, and gently stir until sugar is dissolved. Store in the refrigerator until serving. You can replace this for store bought lingonberry jam or redcurrant jelly.

3. Peel the potatoes and boil them in lightly salted water until very soft. Pass through a fine sieve to get the smoothest mash. Add the butter, and then the milk (less for a firmer mash, more for a soft purée) slowly as you whisk the potatoes. Season with salt.

4. Peel and grate the onion coarsely. Fry it in a hot pan together with a little bit of butter and vegetable oil until golden brown.
5. Put the ground beef in a bowl, add the browned onions, about two tablespoons of the beef stock and the same amount of dark beer. Season with salt and pepper, and mix together. Leave for 15 minutes.
6. Roll the meat into small balls with a diameter of roughly one inch (wetting your hands slightly from time to time makes it easier to shape them). Fry the meatballs in batches together with butter and vegetable oil. Set aside while making the sauce.

7. Deglace the frying pan with a little water and add the stock. Reduce by a third, and then add the cream. Bring to simmer, and add the butter and a pinch of sugar. Whisk until dissolved completely and reduce by about a third again. Thicken with thickener to taste. Taste and season it with salt and white pepper.
8. Add the meatballs to the sauce, or serve them separately.

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