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THE LOCAL RECIPES

MEATBALLS

This is the best Christmas meatballs recipe in the world

Why not embrace your inner Swede and try out our favourite meatballs recipe?

This is the best Christmas meatballs recipe in the world
Different kinds of meatballs. Photo: Robin Haldert/TT

All Swedes have their own family recipe of meatballs (köttbullar) and there is not one universal method of making this traditional comfort food. Feel free to experiment and use a bit more or a bit less of this or that, depending on what you prefer. It's one of the most popular foods on the Christmas julbord dinner.

Summary

Serves: 4

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking: 30 minutes

Total: 40 minutes

Ingredients

4 tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs

4 tbsp water or milk

225g (8 oz) pork mince

225g (8 oz) veal or beef mince

2 tbsp grated onion (it is better grated than chopped)

1 egg, lightly beaten

3 or 4 whole allspice, crushed

salt and freshly ground white and black pepper

2 tbsp butter, for frying

500ml (2 cups) beef stock, made with a bouillon cube or similar

2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch), mixed with a little water

1/2 tsp soy sauce

2 tbsp double (heavy) or whipping cream


Swedish meatballs are a staple ingredient on the Christmas smorgasbord. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Method

1. Put the breadcrumbs in a large bowl and add 4 tablespoons of water or milk. Leave them to absorb the liquid for about 5 minutes.

2. Add the mince, grated onion, egg, allspice and seasoning. Mix with your hands or a wooden spoon until evenly mixed. Don't over mix or the meatballs will be heavy.

3. Take a tablespoon of mixture and roll it until it is nice and round. Rinse your hands in cold water if the mixture is too sticky. Repeat until you have used up all the mixture, by which time you should have about 30 meatballs.

4. Heat a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan over a medium high heat until the butter stops sizzling. Fry half the meatballs, shaking the pan frequently when you first add them. When they are nicely browned, turn down the heat and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the pan and keep warm.

5. Add another tablespoon of butter and fry the remaining meatballs in the same way as in step four.

6. When the meatballs are cooked, remove the pan from the heat and add the stock and corn flour mixture. Stir thoroughly and then reheat. Simmer for five minutes then add the soy sauce, seasoning and cream. Heat for another couple of minutes, stirring continuously.

7. Serve the meatballs with lingonberries or lingonberry jam, mashed potatoes, pressed cucumber and a light coating of the sauce. Pour the rest of the cream sauce into a jug for people to help themselves to if they want more.

Tips

– Take your time rolling the meat into balls between the palms of your hand, otherwise they will go out of shape quickly when you fry them.

– Fry the meatballs in two batches, because if you fry too many at once they will steam rather than brown.

– If you are making very large quantities for a party, make the meatballs in advance and then reheat them in an oven.

-If you prefer a creamier sauce, use 200ml (3/4 cup) of single cream instead of the cream below and reduce the amount of beef stock to 300ml (1 1/4 cups).

This recipe was originally published on food writer John Duxbury's Swedish Food website

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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