I’m calling these “Scandinavian” because I consulted my Norwegian grandmother’s recipe for the meatballs themselves and stole elements of a Diana Henry recipe for Swedish meatballs (in her book “Roast Figs Sugar Snow”) to make the sauce.
Surprisingly, even though my mother gave me her mother’s meatball recipe years ago, I had never used it before. I make meatballs a lot, but usually Italian-style ones in a tomato sauce to serve with spaghetti. It’s good to have a change and these, dare I say it, are just as good or possibly better. If Italian flavours are what you’re after it’s simpler just to make a ragù.
The addition of baking powder to my grandmother’s meatballs is a revelation: it makes them wonderfully light and airy. You can serve these with lingonberry sauce or jam. My son bought me some at SkandiKitchen in London. Ikea sells it too, but if you haven’t got any, cranberry sauce would also go well. I served them with braised, spiced red cabbage and plain boiled potatoes, which struck me as being very Norwegian. I’d like to think my grandmother would approve and that she’d be pleased I served them on her Porsgrund china plates.
500g pork mince
500g beef mince
1 heaped tsp salt
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1 heaped tsp ground white pepper
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
100g breadcrumbs, soaked for about 30 minutes in 150ml milk until all the milk has been absorbed
About 1 tbsp sunflower or groundnut oil
400ml chicken or beef stock
1 tbsp sunflower or groundnut oil
1 tbsp plain flour
200g sour cream
3 tbsps chopped fresh dill
Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs thoroughly in a large bowl. You could do this in a food processor
Using wet hands form the mixture into balls. I’ll leave the size to you
Fry in a little oil until brown. I “fried” them, drizzled with oil, on the large Aga baking tray for five minutes on the floor of the roasting oven before turning them over and frying for a further five minutes or until they were nicely browned. Doing it in the oven like this stops the Aga losing heat and means you don’t get fat splashing over the Aga top
Heat the butter with 1 tbsp oil in a large saucepan or sauté pan on the simmering plate. Add the flour and cook, 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 simmering plate and bring the liquid up to the boil, stirring constantly
Add the sour cream and then the meatballs
Cover and place in the simmering oven for at least 30 minutes (but as you know, they will be fine if left there for much longer than that) until the meatballs are cooked through. (If you are short of time you could cook them for about 15 minutes in the baking oven.)
Taste for seasoning, add the chopped dill and serve
Or is it pilaf? I believe the words are synonymous, but perhaps it depends if your dish is Middle Eastern (pilaf) or Indian (pilau). This one is a pilau because it’s based on one of Meera Sodha’s from her wonderful book Fresh India, which I mentioned here and a copy of which I now own.
A pilau is made with long grain rice and is a great way of using up leftover ingredients, which is what I was doing the other night when I made it. I added asparagus because at this time of year during the British asparagus season, hardly a day goes by when it isn’t on our menu at home.
My sons gave me two cookery books for my birthday. My daugher-in-law looked a bit sceptical and asked if I was sure they were what I wanted (I do have quite a few already), but I assured her it was. I had dropped a few (many) hints in the run-up to my birthday. One of the books was Diana Henry’s new one, How to Eat a Peach, which is a beautiful collection of menus rather than recipes; it’s also a sort of memoir, an account of the places she’s travelled to since she was a teenager, and where she discovered all the dishes she loves to cook and eat. I have already cooked a few of the recipes from the book, although I haven’t yet put together a whole menu. The first thing I made was this braised pork, which I pounced on because I knew it would be perfect for the AGA simmering oven. I adjusted the quantities because there were only four of us eating and off I went.
Braised Pork with Ginger and Star Anise
For the pork
About 1tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
1kg pork shoulder, cut into 3cm cubes
200g shallots, sliced
20g fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
5 garlic cloves, finely grated or crushed
5 tbsps kecap manis
3 tbsps light soy sauce
11/2 tbsps tamarind paste
400ml chicken stock
1 star anise
2 medium-hot chillies, halved, deseeded and finely chopped
2 birds’ eye chillies, left whole
For the crispy fried shallots
Groundnut or vegetable oil
100g shallots, finely sliced
Sea salt flakes
Spread the pork out on a large baking tray, lined with bake-o-glide and drizzle with the oil
Place on the top rung or on the floor of the roasting oven for 10 minutes, then remove it, turn the meat over and return the tray to the roasting oven for about 5 minutes. Your aim is to have golden brown pieces of pork; you’re not trying to turn it dark brown
Meanwhileget on with your shallots. Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in the casserole you want to braise your pork in. Do this on the simmering plate. Add the shallots, turn them over in the oil, put the lid on and transfer the casserole to the simmering oven for about 15 minutes until they are soft and golden
Stir the garlic and ginger in and return the pork to the pan along with the kecap manis, soy sauce, tamarind and stock
Bring to the boil on the boiling or simmering plate, add the star anise and all the chillies and place your casserole, uncovered, in the simmering oven for about 3 hours but, as I’m sure you know, when slow cooking in the Aga simmering oven the timing is not crucial as long as you end up with meltingly tender meat
Remove the star anise and the whole chillies
Meanwhile make the crispy fried shallots by heating about 2cm of oil in a small pan on the simmering plate. Add the shallots and fry, moving them around, until they are crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon to a sheet of kitchen towel on a plate and sprinkle with salt
If the liquid around the pork is not thick and glossy and seems a bit thin, remove the pork with a slotted spoon to a dish and keep it warm in the simmering oven. Boil the liquid for a while on the boiling or simmering plate until it’s reduced and then return the pork to the pan to heat through
Serve the pork with the crispy fried shallots sprinkled over. We ate ours with rice and stir-fried pak choi
Another of my Easter weekend dishes was this simple chicken traybake, which is also a Diana Henry recipe. It appeared in the Telegraph’s Stella magazine a few weeks ago. I tried it then and knew my family would like it. It’s perfectly suited to Aga cooking.
For 4-6 people, depending on hunger levels and the size of the chicken thighs
2.5cm chunk ginger root, peeled and grated or finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, halved and finely chopped (use the seeds for extra heat)
12-18 spring onions
3 tsp black or toasted white sesame seeds (or a mixture of the two)
For the final basting
1 tbsp white miso
1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
½ tbsp dark soy sauce
½ tbsp rice wine
Pre-heat conventional oven to 190ºC/gas mark 5
Place the thighs in a large roasting tin with the sweet potato wedges (they should be able to lie in a single layer)
Mix together everything else except the spring onions and sesame seeds. Pour this over the chicken and sweet potatoes, turning everything over so the ingredients are well coated, finishing with the chicken skin-side up
Roast for 45 minutes at the top of the roasting oven, basting every so often, and turning the wedges over
Mix the final basting ingredients together and about 15 minutes before the end of cooking time, take the tin out of the oven and pour them over, adding the spring onions at the same time. They should become soft and slightly charred
When cooked, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve
I served ours with pak choi stir-fried in a little groundnut oil with black pepper and soy sauce
When I was growing up people only really used candles on birthday cakes, for a special dinner or if there was a power cut (and there were quite a few in the early seventies during the three-day week). This was not true in my house, however, because my Norwegian mother brought over her country’s tradition of lighting candles at all times of the day or night. She would stock up on them during our holidays in Norway because she swore that Scandinavian candles were better and did not drip. Imagine her excitement (yes, really) when Swedish, not Norwegian, Ikea opened its first branch over here and she could buy candles almost anytime she felt like it. It meant she could use them with abandon, finances permitting, without having to worry about when she was next going to visit her relatives or when they’d next be crossing the North Sea to visit us and could be persuaded to bring candles with them.
If this is sounding somewhat obsessive I have to admit I’ve inherited the candle dependency. They add ambience, and let’s be honest, make everything look better and hide a multitude of blemishes, whether it be the lines on your face or the chips on your paintwork. What with Scandi Noir TV dramas and a growing interest in Scandinavian cuisine over here, we feel that we know a lot more about those countries. Magazines talk about hyggeand give us tips on how to achieve it in our homes. Well, candles are part of that, and you don’t only have to light them when it’s dark. In my family a candle would always be lit at breakfast on someone’s birthday, for example.
I didn’t pay my usual pre-Christmas visit to Ikea to stock up on candles because I felt we had enough to see us through. I was right but I’ve been using them sparingly ever since for fear of running out completely, which would be a disaster. Seriously. Anyway, when I was there the other day I picked up my favourites: Jubla (tall, slim and white; see above), Fenomen (fat and white) and a couple of packs of tealights. I only ever have white candles. Red is lovely at Christmas but doesn’t go that well with the decor in our living and dining rooms so I find it easier to stick to white.
No recipes for you in this post but there IS food. It’s hard to drop into Ikea without picking up something to eat. This time I bought spicy ginger biscuits or “pepparkaka”: delicious with a cup of tea or, should you feel the urge, a glass of mulled wine.