Swedish Meatballs

Once upon a time, in my youth, which we all know was a million years ago, I landed the most exciting job a young girl looking for adventure could land…one that gave me the opportunity to travel (well, the most exciting if that young girl was me…which it was). I flew to different countries in Europe and lived like a local for about three months at a time. I would have my own flat and be, for the first time in my life, totally and completely on my own. I worked during the week and travelled some more during the weekends. I was smitten by the clean air and shy people (and the overabundance of personal space!) of Finland. I rode a hot air balloon and went para-gliding in Switzerland. I saw Stonehenge on a very, very windy day. I visited the Greek islands with their brilliant white houses and crystalline aquamarine waters. I took a train into Russia and a ferry to Estonia. I lived by the red light district in Amsterdam. Our house in Athens had grape vines growing on the rooftop where we would hang up our washing. I went to Belgium to have what I still believe to be the best frites in the world.

I was in heaven.

It was during this time that I really fell in serious love with cooking. I already loved to eat, but up until then, someone always managed to do the cooking for me. All of a sudden I was far away from home with a grumbling tummy and a thinning wallet. I couldn’t afford to eat out every day, and at the time, wanted to spend all my money on travel during the weekends. So off I went to try my hand at cooking regularly for myself.  Surrounded by beautiful markets and gorgeous produce, and with nobody looking over my shoulder to critique my work (that was the important bit actually!), I dove head first into what is now one of my biggest passions.

But that’s not all I fell in love with while I was away. I met C here, soon before I left the country. Or should I say, I “re-met” him (we first met when I was 16 and, well, let’s just say we both had a few wild oats to sow before being serious about anything). We connected, it was barely the potential of something wonderful, and then I was gone. I went my way and he went his but we kept resolutely in touch. Emails, calls, postcards, texts. When I would come home to visit we would zealously reunite. He came out to visit me in Amsterdam where we spent a starry-eyed two weeks…with an even more starry-eyed weekend in Paris squeezed in for good measure. And then…another goodbye.

Eventually, my adventure abroad ended, and I came home. I surprised him in a restaurant and the rest is, as they say, history. A proposal and a heartfelt yes…and happily ever after.

But even now, settled into “real married life”, two kids in, sleepless nights and highly unglamorous states, squabbles and annoyances, tightening of belts, both of us not as bright and shiny as we used to be. Even now, even then, I can still remember clearly, not so much the flush of early romance, but the heavy ache every time we said goodbye.

And now, when times are fraught, and we are all not at our sunniest, I remember that. That ache in my heart when we would part, in a busy airport, in a darkened car, outside my parent’s house. It isn’t the thrill of ardor’s first awaking, or those first seasons of love, that are important…but the ache your heart remembers still, even now, when you say goodbye to that imperfect man.

And, no matter how far you ramble, the comfort of coming home, back into his arms.

Swedish Meatballs
(adapted from Damn Delicious)

  • Canola oil, for frying
  • Half a medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 300 grams ground beef
  • 200 grams ground pork
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Chopped parsley to garnish

– Place a skillet over medium high heat. Add about a tablespoon-full of oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté, stirring, until soft and caramelized.
– In a large bowl combine the cooked onions, beef, pork, panko, egg yolk, allspice, and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well until everything is combined…I like using my hands for this. Roll mixture into 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch balls.
– Wipe down your skillet and return to the heat. Add enough oil just to cover the bottom of your pan in a thin layer. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs, taking care not to over-crowd the pan. Cook in batches if you need to. Cook until all sides are browned, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
– Now make the sauce. In another pan, or the same skillet cleaned out, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly browned, about a minute. Gradually whisk in the broth, and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened. Stir in sour cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.
– Place the meatballs in the pan with the sauce and stir gently to coat. Cook further, stirring occasionally, until heated through and the sauce has thickened a bit more. Remember that the sauce with thicken further as it cools!
– Remove from the heat and serve garnished with the parsley.

This would be perfect served with some lingonberry jam, but I have no idea where you can find any here. I think cranberry jelly would be a satisfactory substitute. We didn’t have either, so we had it with rice and it was perfect. I halved the original recipe so you can head over to Damn Delicious if you’d like a bigger serving. This served my family of four (two adults and two kids) quite well.

Meatballs will always be comfort food for me. Coming home food. My mom made it with tomato sauce, and so do I, but I wanted to try something new this time, and have always liked Swedish meatballs…so there you have it. I am happy to report that everyone in the family enjoyed this dish, and I hope you and your loved ones enjoy it as well.

As you may know, if you follow me on Instagram, I just came home from a short trip to Spain. It was a lovely trip…work was productive and inspiring, and being in one of my favorite cities was fantastic as always. But also, as always, it was equally fantastic to return to the wonderful, messy, simple, awesome place and people that I call home.

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