Swedish Roots & Root Vegetables
My Grandma on my Dad’s side was half English and half Swedish. Besides having a voracious appetite for the fine arts of the symphony and opera, she had an exquisite talent in art. She was particularly gifted at pastels, calligraphy and paper crafts. My Grandma would handmake all of her cards for our birthdays, Christmas, etc. from recycled wrapping paper. And I have two of her pastel pieces hanging in my home, including one she personally made just for me when I was in middle school. She was a lady of refined taste and class. I wish I could have spent more time learning from her when she was alive. My Grandma passed away when I was in eighth grade, back when I didn’t understand the value in learning from my elders. But I made a simplified Swedish meal, as an homage to my Grandma. 💚
This dish is extremely flavorful yet incredibly simple. If you have a few select root vegetables including potatoes, onion and garlic, you can create a most wonderful meal. The more I learn about classic or vintage recipes, the more I realize how simple they were. Standing at the stove for hours just isn’t necessary to put a nourishing meal on the table. Sometimes all you need is some good vegetables… and perhaps the convenience of a bag of vegetarian meatballs from IKEA… 😝
An Authentic Swedish Meal
The recipe I turned to for a simplified Swedish meal is from no other cookbook than IKEA’s Food’s Ready. It’s actually a really neat book because all the recipes use minimal ingredients. And this recipe that I found is literally called “Swedish meatball platter” so it must be at least semi-authentic, right?
Thankfully my sister-in-law has strong Swedish roots. Her family cooks a giant Swedish meal including homemade meatballs, a special gravy sauce, steamed beets, rice pudding and mashed potatoes each year on Christmas Eve. And EVERYTHING gets doused in lingonberry jam, which is like a way better version of cranberry sauce. So I am pretty confident that meatballs with mashed potatoes and gravy counts as a “Swedish meal”.
Now, I did put my own twist on this dish. I am not a fan of touching raw ground meat, so I opted for veggie balls instead. And why not make it easier, and use IKEA’s premade frozen ones called huvudroll, right?
And if you haven’t heard already, my Dad makes the BEST mashed potatoes. I wish I could say that our secret family recipe was handed down from my Swedish/English grandma. But alas, she was actually not a successful cook. I like my mashed potatoes on the sweeter side, so I subbed one of the potatoes with a sweet potato. And while there is the convenient option to buy the gravy cream sauce from IKEA, I chose to make my own. I followed the same recipe for vegetarian onion gravy that I made for English bangers and mash!
A Simplified Swedish Meal
- 32 meatballs or veggie balls
- 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
- 1 medium sweet potato
- 1½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ¾ cup whole milk, half-and-half, or unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 6 Tbsp butter or dairy-free butter, divided
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour (or a gluten free baking blend of flour)
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
- ½ cup lingonberry jam
- To make the mashed potatoes, peel and quarter the Yukon Gold potatoes and the sweet potato. Feel free to use four Yukon Gold potatoes for a less-sweet flavor. Place them in a pot and fill it with water to cover the potatoes by about an inch of water. Bring the pot to a boil on high heat.Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces the potatoes.
- Drain the potatoes into a colander. Add the potatoes back into the pot along with the salt, black pepper, nutmeg, milk and four tablespoons of the butter. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or a large fork until they are light and fluffy and everything is mixed together. Keep warm with the lid on the pot, either off heat or on a very low heat. *Note: don't over-mix the potatoes once they come together. Over-mixing can cause the starch in the potatoes to create a gluey gross mess.
- While the potatoes are boiling, heat the remaining two tablespoons of butter in a saucepan on medium-high heat.Reduce the heat to low and add the diced onion and cook over low heat until the onions are golden and caramelized, after about 30 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another few minutes, until the garlic is fragrant.
- Whisk the flour into the caramelized onions.
- Increase the heat to medium and add the broth and the optional liquid smoke. Whisk constantly until it forms a thick and bubbling gravy.
- Try a taste of the gravy, and add more salt if desired.
Serving a Swedish Meal
- Warm the frozen meatballs or vegetable balls according to the package's instructions. Ensure they are hot when you're ready to serve your meal.
- Place a few good-sized dollops of the mashed potatoes on a plate. Add half a dozen meatballs or vegetable balls and pour the onion gravy over everything.
- Spoon a side of lingonberry jam onto the plate, to be eaten with each bite.Enjoy!!