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Swedish Meatballs with Cranberry Sauce

(recipe, Diana Henry)


Meatballs. The idea somehow never seems to inspire people, but I adore this recipe, a classic of Swedish home cooking. Use ground venison instead of beef if you want something with a little more punch. You can serve the meatballs with lingonberry sauce, as they do in Sweden — they stock jars of it in IKEA — but fresh lingonberries are virtually impossible to get, and cranberries are a fine substitute.


    Cranberry sauce
    1. 1 lb. 2 oz. (500 grams) cranberries
    2. Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
    3. ⅔ cup superfine sugar
    1. ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
    2. 1 small onion, very finely chopped
    3. 2 tsp. ground allspice
    4. 3½ oz. (100 grams) breadcrumbs
    5. ⅔ cup milk
    6. 2 lb. 4 oz. (1 kilogram) ground pork and beef (see Note)
    7. 1 large egg, beaten
    8. Salt and pepper
    9. 2 Tbsp. sunflower or peanut oil
    Sour-cream sauce
    1. 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
    2. 1¾ cups chicken or beef stock
    3. 1 cup sour cream
    4. 3 Tbsp. roughly chopped fresh dill


    1. Make the cranberry sauce: Put the cranberries in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan with ½ cup water and the lemon juice and zest. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down low and cook for about 15 minutes. When the berries have started to pop, add the sugar and continue to cook until the sugar has melted. Take off the heat, taste to see if the sauce is as sweet as you want it, and leave to cool.
    2. Make the meatballs: Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk until all the milk has been absorbed, about 30 minutes.
    3. Melt 1 Tbsp. of the butter and in it sauté the onion until soft but not colored. Add the allspice and cook for a further minute.
    4. Mix the onion and the soaked breadcrumbs with the meat and egg and season really well. With wet hands, form the mixture into balls a little larger than walnuts.
    5. Heat half of the remaining butter with half the oil and fry the meatballs in batches, making sure that they get a good color on the outside. Try not to burn the fat, but if you do, discard it before you fry the next set of meatballs. Put the cooked meatballs aside.
    6. Make the sour-cream sauce: Heat the remaining butter and oil in the pan. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring, until the flour is golden. Take the pan off the heat and gradually add the stock, stirring well after each addition. Put the pan back on the heat and, stirring constantly, bring the liquid to a boil and add the sour cream. Turn the heat down low, add the meatballs, cover, and cook gently for 15 minutes. The sauce will thicken.
    7. Taste for seasoning, add the chopped dill, and serve with the cranberry sauce and boiled or mashed potatoes.


    Culinate editor's notes: A mixture of 1 pound ground pork and 1¼ pounds ground beef works well. Should your sauce not thicken enough, add another tablespoon of flour and simmer the sauce, whisking steadily, until the sour cream is homogenized and the sauce has thickened. Serve over wide egg noodles, such as pappardelle, if you don't have any potatoes on hand. Spaetzle also works well for soaking up the sauce.