Meatballs are the ultimate Scandinavian dish, eaten everywhere and every day. As with all recipes for popular dishes, we each have our own favorite, and believe everything else to be heresy. As we cannot possible please everybody, here we have simply chosen our own favorite.
The shape and size of meatballs vary in different parts of Scandinavia, and so do the accompaniments. In Sweden these are inevitably mashed potatoes and lingonberries, while in Denmark it’s pickled red cabbage in winter and creamed kale or creamed summer cabbage with potatoes and pickled beetroot for the rest of the year. Norwegians eat their kjøttkaker with potatoes, lingonberries and creamed cabbage or bashed neeps.
You can use dry, day old bread as in the recipe below, breadcrumbs or plain flour to keep the meatballs together. However, bread is our favorite. The best meatballs are made from a mixture of veal and pork.
1 kg minced mixed veal and pork
1 large onion, grated
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
2 large slices white bread without crust, soaked in milk
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
½ bay leaf, finely ground
Approx. 200ml milk
Butter, for frying
Mix everything, except the milk and butter, in an electric mixer or bowl. It’s important to mix for a long time to form a spongy ‘dough’, able to retain moisture and expand when fried. Add enough milk to make it soft but manageable.
Leave the finished mixture to rest for an hour, or longer, then shape into balls with wet hands.
Fry the meatballs slowly in browned butter until they feel spongy. You can cook the meatballs in different ways and thus influence their shape.
Danish frikadeller are largish, each a very large tablespoonful and often, triangular as you turn them three times instead of twice.
Norwegian kjøttkaker are flat, while Swedish köttbullar are small and round and rolled over in the pan to keep them the shape.
Leftover meatballs are perfect for open sandwiches on rye bread, with pickled red cabbage or beetroot on top.
Scandinavian Meatballs, written by Tor Kjolberg