Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Swedes and their meatballs, köttbullar to you and I

I've done meatballs in many guises before, maybe my problem has been that I've never taken them terribly serious. Here in Stockholm, as I'm sure is the case in the whole of Sweden, the issue of meatballs are taken deadly seriously. Swedish meatballs seem to be absolutely necessary for gatherings, comfort and memories. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that along with herring, it's one of the principle necessities keeping this glorious country together.

In my limited meatball career, I've never been a fan of store-bought meatballs , so I've long insisted on making my own, and actually think I made some killer black pudding balls in a tomato and apple sauce for Simon's birthday party just before flying onto Sweden. Home made has never ever been a hassle for me, and I think in the main it's because of the cooking process. No frying. At all. Oven baked. The only way to go.

Generally I don't measure my seasonings and spices, just add quite a bit of the white pepper, and just a dash of everything else. You can serve these with anything - creamed potatoes and gravy with lingonberries and pickled cucumber tend to go down a storm, but in a tomato sauce, wrapped in a pita with garlic mayonnaise, ketchup and chips. The possibilities are endless.

Perfect Swedish köttbullar, oven-baked

900g ground meat
1 yellow onion, very finely chopped
1-2 small cloves of garlic, minced
1 egg
white pepper
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of cardamom
pinch of allspice

Mix everything to an even batter, and form small, round balls. Put in a large roasting pan, and bake for about 15 minutes or so at 175°C. Shake the pan a few times to ensure an even surface on your meatballs.

Jag är Verkligen Hungrig.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Förhandsgranska - Salmon with dill and lime

Stockholm these past couple of days has brought with it an alarming little display of food stuffs I have easily been forced to admit I have never tasted the like of before. From the subtle bleak caviar heaped onto crispy buttered toast, to the rightly acquired taste of surströmming. An extremely heavily fermented herring, quite a flavour I'm still working out how to describe. Next dish planned is the blodpudding, which quite clearly doesn't need an awful lot of translation, but the charm of it being traditionally eaten with lingonberry jam, potatoes and grated carrots has the better of me already.

At this time of year, and in particular back home, pâtés and terrines are particularly useful for what is going to prove to be a summer of many lunches, requiring no last-minute preparation beyond making a few rounds of that buttery toast. Strictly speaking, this dish isn't a terrine in the classic sense, but I serve it as such: the coarse, textured salmon in a china dish together with crisp Swedish inspired rye toast and paper-thin slices of pickled cucumber. It is the perfect light lunch with maybe some salad and cheese to follow. Or, in a more formal meal it would do as a refreshing first course before you move onto the beast that is fermented fish!

Salmon marinaded with dill and lime

500g wild salmon
4 tblsp mild olive oil
2 tblsp dill leaves
2 large ripe limes
1 tblsp capers

To serve - hot rye toast

Remove the skin from the salmon and, using a large, heavy knife, chop the flesh finely. You want it to be fine enough to stick together, but by no means a purée. Scoop it into a bowl. Mix in the olive oil, the chopped dill, the lime juice and the capers. Season carefully with salt and black pepper and pack the mixture into a terrine or china dish and leave overnight. Eat the next day with hot rye toast and pickled cucumber.

Pickled cucumber

Half a large cucumber
4 tblsp white wine vinegar
2 tblsp chopped coriander leaves
caster sugar

Peel the cucumber and slice it very thinly - you should be able to see through each slice. Put the slices in a colander and sprinkle with sea salt, then leave for a good half hour.

Rinse and pat dry with kitchen roll, put in a bowl with about 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, a couple of teaspoons of sugar and the chopped coriander leaves. Season with black pepper and toss gently. Set aside for a couple of hours, or overnight.