As promised, here is the third instalment of my pumpkin bonanza. I really enjoyed making (and eating) this autumnal take on pork meatballs. The pumpkin makes your meat go a bit further and because they are baked in the oven, rather than fried, just that little bit healthier. You could also use a lean mince to really up the health credentials. The chèvre cream is one of my favourite things in the world- it works as a dip, a sauce with pasta (see serving suggestion below in step 3) or just as an accompaniment to some grilled meat.
I can’t remember the last time I had a big birthday bash. Dinner and drinks, yes, absolutely. It’s a great excuse to get a few friends together at a favourite watering hole for a nibble and natter. But there’s normally just a few of us. Low key and lovely.
But, but. This year I’ve got a bigger birthday and that merits a bit more in way of celebrations. Three sound about right. So I had a summer lunch with family back in Sweden a few weeks ago, dinner at the delicious Brawn on the day itself and finally a do at Wilton’s Music Hall on the following Friday. Why not, after all?
The lunch I made for family and friends back on the island in Stockholm was a cross cultural affair with recipes inspired by my time at Leiths mixed in with a few family favourites. A sort of pan Moroccan-Swedish smörgåsbord with spiced lamb, tahini and aubergine meeting smoked fish, saffron and Västerbotten cheese. I’m not saying it necessarily made any kind of logical sense as a menu, but I figured it was my party and I’d cook what I wanted to. I’ve copied the full menu below.
|Jasmine from the garden|
Admittedly there was a ridiculous amount of food but in my defence, there were 23 of us! And my family are pretty good eaters, it must be said. Luckily, I had some help from Toby, my trusted sous chef, who was particularly proud of the Moroccan meatballs he made (they have been mentioned several times since) and he insisted I post the recipe. The quiche calls for delicious Västerbotten cheese (a tongue-tingling tangy Swedish cheese), which is available at Waitrose and Ocado, however, a strong cheddar works just as well. For the terrine, I used a large rectangular bread tin, no need to go out and buy a special dish.
|Lemon, Tarragon and Olive Chicken|
|Tahini Green Peppers|
(Lamb meatballs in tomato and cinnamon sauce)
A Recipe from Leiths Cookery Bible
You will need:
250g minced lamb
1/2 onion, peeled and grated
1.5 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp mint, chopped
1.5 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
salt to taste
For the sauce:
250g chopped tinned tomatoes
1 tsp parsley, chopped plus extra
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3-4 cinnamon sticks
salt and pepper to taste
1. Place the mince in a large mixing bowl and combine with the onion, parsley, garlic, spices and salt and pepper. Mix well.
2. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large pan and add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add parsley and cinnamon and stir. Allow the sauce to simmer and thicken for about 15-20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, shape the mince into meatballs. Add to the sauce and simmer gently until cooked through. Remove the cinnamon stick and check the seasoning, adjusting with salt, pepper and sugar.
4. Serve scattered with parsley and accompanied by a bulgur salad and flatbreads.
Smoked Mackerel, Trout and Saffron Potato Terrine
Adapted from the Chef’s Chef website.
For 1 large terrine mould, you will need:
600g Smoked mackerel (whole, approx 400g if you are using fillets only)
300g Floury potatoes
About 4 Smoked trout fillets (or two packets)
75g Butter, softened
two generous pinches of Saffron
1 tbsp Dill, finely chopped plus extra
1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Boil in a large pan of salted water along with a pinch of saffron. Line a large terrine mould or bread tin with a double layer of cling. You may find it easier to do this if you lightly wet the sheets of cling first. There should be plenty of overhang.
2. De-bone mackerel and remove the skin, separating the flesh into fillets.
3. Place mackerel fillets on the base and sides of the mould, packing tightly. You should find that the fillets will easily mould to each other and can use any smaller pieces to patch up any gaps.
4. Once the potatoes are cooked through, drain them and return to the hot pan for a minute to get rid of any excess moisture and fluff them up a bit. Add the butter, dill, a little lemon juice to taste. Mix together so that the potatoes begin to break up a bit. Season with salt, pepper and another pinch of saffron if desired.
5. Layer the centre of the mould with the potato mix and smoked trout and close the terrine with the rest of the mackerel.
6. Close cling film over the top of the mould and weight lightly for 4 hours minimum in the fridge, ideally weighted down and overnight.
7. Remove from the tin and from the cling. Cut into generous slices and scatter with dill.
|Look who I found hanging out by the cake…|
I think it is about time I tackled the dish most stereotypically associated with Sweden. The mighty… the classic… the evocative… the no-introduction-required…. meatball.
I have deliberately avoided the subject so far, aware that I could not do so for long and dreading it at the same time. Because the issue is this- I don’t know how to reclaim the meatball. I am all too conscious of its connotations: Meatballs paint a picture of a Sweden filled with blond, Volvo-driving Abba-fans who went through Utopian school systems and have 24 hour access to faultless health care. Meatballs never get bored during Ingmar Bergman films. And so on…
(There is also the Swedish Chef of Sesame Street fame, of course. But I actually wrote a food column for my university paper entitled the Swedish Chef, so I’ve made my peace with that particular cultural caper. I’ve embraced it.)
But now I feel ready to set the record straight: the Ikea, factory-style portions are not the meatballs that I grew up with. OK, so sometimes they weren’t all that dissimilar, a nursery-food, fresh from the freezer and served with macaroni and ketchup (and kind of glorious, to be honest). But they also feature in my childhood memories as lovingly home-made, part of the ‘julbord’ (literally- Christmas table, the buffé style meal eating during the holidays) or served up for a special occasion. Because the truth is that meatballs, although not difficult to make per se, do require a lot of patience. It takes a bit of practise to understand the ratio of mince/onion/breadcrumbs and to know when they are going to be too gloopy and stick to the pan. It takes a frying pan you know well and feel confident with. But, above all, it takes time. Meatballs are small and you have to roll each one individually, using the palms of your hands- a messy and slightly gruesome business. And time-consuming.
Meatballs in Sweden are served in all manner of ways, with pasta, in sauces and with different flavours (this Christmas, my godfather made some flavoured with ginger and cinnamon). I have a healthier recipe on file (equal parts mince and lentil), which I serve with bulgar wheat. The possibilities are endless. But if I am honest, I really enjoy serving them with quite traditional, dare I say it, even slightly kitsch accessories- new potatoes with dill (a Swedish staple, but mash is a substitute of equal merit), ‘brown’ sauce (a creamy gravy), grated carrot salad, lingonberry jam (available form the Scandinavian Kitchen) and, finally, some hard bread with strong cheese. Perhaps this is because when I am back in London I do that typical expat thing of actually behaving more Swedish than the Swedes proper.
And so, just for you, here is my grandmother’s definitive recipe (although I find mine never live up to hers). I hope you appreciate it. It makes for about 4 portions, or two hungry people with leftovers (for a meatball sandwich the next day- fantastic, although often served decorated with a slice of orange back in Sweden. Peculiar.)
She has added two secret and imperative ingredients: A stock cube for extra flavour and a pinch of sugar. Apparently the sugar is particularly controversial, but she says she once heard the famous Swedish chef, Tore Wretman, on the radio saying that it’s what he did too and since then she felt vindicated.
You will need:
500 g of lean mince
1 dl* breadcrumbs
1 large egg
2 dl* water
1 stock cube
1 medium sized onion
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
Butter or margarine
1. First, bring the kettle to boil, put your breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Dissolve the stock cube in the water and pour over the breadcrumbs. Leave to ‘swell’ for about 10 minutes.
2. Grate the onion with the coarse side of the grater into the stock mixture. Add the mince, egg, sugar, plenty of pepper and a pinch of salt.
3. Mix until well-combined. You may want to get your hands in there. At this point, my grandmother tastes the raw mixture to see if it needs more seasoning, but I wouldn’t recommend that. Instead, get your frying pan on a high heat and melt some butter in it.
4. Form a couple of balls, rolling between your palms. They should have a circumference no bigger than a £2 coin. Fry in the pan, turning when brown and crisp on the outside. This should take a few minutes per side. Taste them and see if the mixture needs more seasoning.
5. Form the rest of the meatballs and fry in the pan, tossing and flipping as you wish.
6. Serve with mash or new potatoes, some dill, salad, lingonberry jam and a cream-based gravy sauce. And a cold beer, of course.
* The decilitre is used a lot in Swedish cooking. It is used for volume and basically is the solid equivalent of 100 ml, if that makes sense. So just use a measuring jug and fill up to the 100 ml line unless you have dl measuring cups.