This recipe for meatballs with vodka sauce is taken from Jane Lawson’s Snowflakes and Schnapps, a Scandinavian-influenced cookery book.
Find out more about the book in my review of Snowflakes and Schnapps.
With little to nothing by way of recipe introductions, it’s harder to choose what to make. Perhaps it’s for this reason that I went for the familiar, a dish that I already associate with the snow-covered reaches of Northern Europe and remember from the many visits to Sweden I made during my childhood. Lawson’s meatballs with vodka dill sauce may not be exactly the same as Swedish köttbullar but they look pretty close.
Meatballs With Vodka Dill Sauce
- 160 g fresh white breadcrumbs
- 185 g whipping cream
- 350 g minced beef
- 350 g minced pork
- 1 large egg
- 1 onion , very finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- pinch ground allspice
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 435 ml beef stock (hot)
- 1 1/2 tbsp chopped dill (plus extra to garnish)
- 80 ml vodka
- Lingonberry preserve to serve
Combine the breadcrumbs and 125 ml of the cream and leave to sit until the breadcrumbs have absorbed all the liquid.
Add the beef and pork mince, egg, onion, nutmeg, allspice, salt and white pepper and combine well.
Roll the mixture into 3 cm balls and place in a single layer on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours to allow the flavours to develop.
When ready to cook, heat half of the butter with the oil in a large heavy based frying pan over a medium-high heat (do not use a non-stick pan).
Cook the meatballs, in batches, for 4-6 minutes each, or until browned all over. Remove and set aside.
Add the remaining butter and the flour to the pan and stir.
Gradually whisk in the hot stock and the remaining cream, scraping up any cooked-on bits.
Add the dill and 3 tablespoons of the vodka, and bring to the boil, whisking continuously until smooth and thickened slightly.
Return the meatballs to the pan, along with any resting juices, and cook for 10 minutes or until tender.
Stir through the remaining vodka and season to taste.
Garnish with the fresh dill and serve with lingonberry preserves as a condiment.
Tip: Serve the meatballs over some sautéed or mashed potatoes or buttered noodles, with the lingonberry preserves on the side as a condiment. A shot of Vodka is a must!
We made a few changes to the recipe, mainly because we had 600 grams of minced beef and the same again of minced pork in the freezer. We scaled up the quantities of all the meatball ingredients, making a whopping 52 meatballs, 36 of which we froze for later use. The remaining 16 we cooked as per the instructions, the only omission being dill, which I don’t like. Having forgotten to defrost any of our home-made stock from the freezer, we used a beef stock pot, which worked fine for this recipe.
Our sauce wasn’t as dark as the photograph in the book, perhaps because we didn’t brown the meatballs enough or maybe because our stock wasn’t as dark as Lawson’s. However, the taste of the meatballs and cream sauce were very much in tune with my memories of Swedish meatballs and gravy.
The main criticism is that adding so much of the vodka into the sauce right at the end gave the finished sauce a rather too astringent vodka taste. In future, I’ll either add all or most of it before bringing the sauce to the boil or simply use less overall.
On the basis of this recipe, I’m hopeful about the success I might have if I tried some of the others, though many of them seem to be more complicated and time-consuming than I have patience for.
Many thanks to Murdoch books for the review copy of Snowflakes and Schnapps.