How the Swedes do their famous meatballs and shrimp salad
I just got back from Gothenburg, Sweden, where my son, Diego, with 44 other boys from the Makati Football Club, represented the Philippines in the Junior World Cup or Gothia Cup.
Lingering in my taste buds are the unforgettable flavors of Feskekôrka (Fishchurch, an indoor fish market) and of Kometen, a traditional Swedish restaurant, that was highly recommended by a dear friend, Mats Loo.
Loo is a Swedish chef who has made the Philippines his home. With partners he founded the First Gourmet Academy where he shares his passion for food with future culinary professionals.
“As a country in Northern Europe, Sweden is famous for serving food that is seasonal,” Loo said.
Different vegetables, meat and fish are eaten at different times of the year when they taste best.
Cooking techniques such as smoking, curing and pickling have been used for centuries to ensure that the Swedes could still eat vegetables and protein even if the ground and lakes are frozen.
Sweden is a big country with a population of less than 10 million people. This means that there are big fields to grow vegetables in, especially root vegetables, and grains that are processed into flour and bread.
Pork and beef are the most common meats served in traditional Swedish restaurants and private homes.
“They are often mixed with onions and spices to create not only the world-famous Swedish meatballs, but also cabbage rolls,” Loo said.
Fish and seafood are also vital in Swedish cuisine.
“Herring, as well as salmon, are served during festive occasions like midsummer, Easter and Christmas,” said Loo. “The cold water in the lakes and rivers make the fish taste more delicious.”
“Swedish people like to drink a lot,” Loo added. “Coffee is consumed six to 10 times a day for many people.”
They even have a name for this ritual, fika, in which they sit down with a cup of coffee and a small, sweet treat, like a cinnamon roll or a couple of cookies.
Beer and vodka are traditionally taken with food, Loo said. “Vodka is usually consumed not as an ingredient in a cocktail, but as a shot, and is accompanied with a song with friends before gulping it in one go,” he said. “Swedish meals can get rough.”
In the past few decades, Sweden has also become a culinary hub as its chefs travel the world.
Inspired by cuisines of other countries, they come home and open restaurants, serving food with unique tastes and flavors.
“Interestingly, immigrants have influenced our cuisine, too,” Loo said.
Most towns in Sweden have pizzerias as well as kebab, pasta and Asian restaurants—all of which have gained popularity.
Typical Swedish dishes
Herring has always been very important in the cuisines of the countries bordering the Baltic Sea, especially Sweden. It is served cold and marinated in different sauces.
Traditionally, yellow Swedish pea soup is consumed on Thursdays. It is easy to make, since the soup simply simmers for hours on the stove. It should have a thick consistency and is always made with cured pork. Both the meat and the stock should be used when cooking a proper pea soup to get the proper taste.
Swedish meatballs are made with ground beef and pork, mixed with minced onions, formed into balls, and pan-fried in butter. The cream sauce is made by adding cream to the frying pan, while allowing the meatballs to simmer.
Shrimp salad is a dish common especially in the west coast of Sweden. Boiled shrimps are mixed with mayonnaise and horseradish, often with dill and parsley, and served cold.
Fish soup from the west coast makes use of whatever ingredients the ocean provides, Loo said. Shrimps, mussels and clams are added to a saffron-flavored broth together with fish like salmon and cod. He shares his recipes below.
Köttbullar (Swedish Meatballs)
3 tbsp breadcrumbs
3 tbsp milk
250 g ground pork
250 g ground lean beef
3 tbsp minced onion
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp unsalted butter (for frying)
1 c beef stock
1 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in ½ tbsp water
Salt and pepper
1 c culinary cream
Combine breadcrumbs and milk in a bowl for 5 minutes.
Add ground pork, beef, onion, egg, salt and pepper. Mix until well-combined.
Shape into balls. Recipe yields 25 and 30.
Heat 1 tbsp butter and pan-fry meatballs until brown.
Lower heat and cook for 10 minutes. Set aside.
To the pan add stock, cream and cornstarch mixture.
Stir thoroughly and simmer for 5 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add warm meatballs to sauce and simmer for a couple more minutes, stirring continuously.
Serve meatballs in the sauce, lingonberries or lingonberry jam, mashed potatoes and pickled cucumber.
Räksallad (Shrimp Salad)
Served cold, this is a very common dish on the Swedish buffet, otherwise called smörgåsbord.
200 g peeled boiled shrimps
1 tbsp each chopped fresh dill and chives
¾ c mayonnaise
1 tbsp mustard
½ tbsp creamed horseradish
Salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients and chill preferably overnight before serving.
You may also serve the salad on top of bread that has been fried in butter.
(Fish Soup from the West Coast)
600 g mixed fish sliced in cubes, cod and salmon
300 g whole shrimps
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 leek, sliced thinly
1 carrot, sliced thinly
0.5 g saffron
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tomatoes, diced
1½ c white wine
3 c fish stock
1½ c culinary cream
Salt and pepper
Sauté garlic, onion, leek and carrot in some butter.
Add saffron and tomato paste.
Add diced tomatoes and white wine. Reduce liquid to half.
Add fish stock and reduce to half .
Add cream and season with salt and pepper.
Add fish and let simmer a while before adding shrimps.
Cook for 5 more minutes and serve garnished with dill and freshly baked bread on the side.
My cooking class schedule for August is now available. Call 09175543700 or 09082372346.
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