Like most busy mothers trying to get dinner on the table in a hurry, I’m always trying to find shortcuts wherever possible. For me, this has been one of the biggest adjustments since becoming a mother; I am someone who used to make absolutely everything from scratch – bread, noodles, pasta – and this cooking style was bound to go out the window once our children came on the scene.
Most shortcuts I have discovered have been via other busy mothers, especially mothers who work full-time and obviously possess very advanced time-management skills in order to be able to put dinner on the table each night for their families. For these mothers, pre-chopped vegetables (whether sold fresh or frozen) are always high on their grocery list, as well as pre-mixed vegetables ready for steaming or stir-frying.
I came across some pre-made meatballs at the supermarket the other day and thought it would be my secret to a speedy dinner that evening with a quick homemade tomato sauce. Unfortunately, my family were quick to call me out. What would often be devoured very quickly in our home was pushed aside on everyone’s plate (mine included), and these meatballs were as tough as rocks.
Filled with guilt at having served my family a sub-standard meal, I tried to redeem myself a few days later by making one of our favourite dishes, Swedish Meatballs with Creamy Gravy … from scratch, of course!
My sister-in-law is Swedish, and everytime we visit her in Stockholm, we are always delighted when she makes us her special meatballs for dinner. Once, whilst I was observing her cooking, I noticed her add an unlikely ingredient to the sauce … soy sauce! It turns out that many Swedes have a bottle of soy sauce in their pantry and use it to add savouriness and colour to their dishes. My sister-in-law and I had a lot more in common than I had expected after all 😉
The following is my recipe for Swedish Meatballs with a Creamy Gravy. If you are a fan of the same famous dish at IKEA – and let’s just admit that we ALL love IKEA’s version – this recipe is an even more delicious, yet homemade, version. I love using fresh herbs in my cooking, so these meatballs are packed with both fresh and dried herbs. In fact, I also serve these meatballs with tomato sauce – it’s a very versatile recipe.
It is typical to serve this dish with mashed potatoes and pickled cucumbers, although I sometimes change things a bit by serving it with pasta (such as orrechiette), or even some golden-fried hash browns or Rösti (we live in Switzerland, after all).
But what is absolutely essential is some lingonberry jam to go alongside the meatballs. In summer, when lingonberries are available at the farmers’ markets, I like to make my own lingonberry jam (which is very quick and easy in small batches). Otherwise, a jar of store-bought lingonberry jam is just as good. We do, after all, have to find some shortcuts in the kitchen!
- For the meatballs
- ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs or Panko breadcrumbs
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) double cream (heavy whipping cream)
- 500 g (1 lb) minced beef
- sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- pinch of allspice
- 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence or dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 1 egg
- For the sauce
- 250-375 ml (1 to 1½) cups beef stock
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) double cream (heavy whipping cream)
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce, or to taste
- 4 teaspoons cornflour, mixed in a little water to make a slurry
- parsley, finely chopped
- chives, finely chopped
- Soak the breadcrumbs in the cream in a large mixing bowl to which you will add everything else later.
- Once the breadcrumbs have softened (this will take just a few minutes), add the remaining ingredients for the meatballs into the bowl. Mix everything together with your hands until it is well combined.
- Shape the meatballs. I prefer to keep the meatballs small, but make them as small or as large as you like.
- Heat some oil in a large frying pan which you will also use later to make the sauce.
- Fry the meatballs until they are golden brown all over. You may need to do this in batches. Don't worry if the meatballs are not cooked through completely, as you will continue to cook them later.
- Remove the meatballs to a plate.
- Pour the stock into the saucepan and use a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits from the pan. Return the meatballs to the pan, and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.
- Remove the meatballs to a plate.
- Add the cream and soy sauce. Slowly whisk in the cornflour mixture to thicken the sauce to your desired consistency (you may not need all of the cornflour mixture).
- Taste for seasoning. If the sauce tastes too concentrated, add a bit of water.
- Return the meatballs to the saucepan, and garnish with parsley and chives before serving.
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If you have tried this recipe, I would love to hear how it turned out! Please leave a comment below and share your photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using #eatlittlebird