Making Lihapullat or Finnish meatballs
Food can quickly bring back memories.
I came across this recipe as I was doing a book review for Apples under the Bed, which is a recollection and recipe book with input from a number of B.C. writers and artists. Each told stories of their childhood and added insight into their backgrounds through the food they ate as children. Ameen Merchant passed on lovely Indian recipes and memories of the homesickness he felt when he first came to Canada. Pat Martin Bates gives a glimpse of her great aunt’s and uncle’s kitchen in Saint John, New Brunswick, where her Auntie made fudge with walnuts. Shirley Madill had daily cooking seminars given by her mother and grandmother and absorbed the idea of cooking rather than actually learning any set technique: no recipes, just learning from the experience of mixing and tasting.
There are many other writers and artists, all of whom give their stories of learning to cook or the smells, memories and glimpses into their lives.
But when I came across this recipe of Lihapullat it brought back my own childhood memories of my Swedish grandmother and her famous meatballs. I have tasted and made meatballs hundreds of times over my life cooking for my own family, but I always feel like I am taken back to when I was a child, watching my grandmother’s gnarled, arthritic hands serve up what was one of my favorite dinners. Although the recipe by Donna E. Smyth is from Finland, I hope she won’t be offended by the Scandinavian comparison.
Lihapullat (Finnish meatballs)
For the meatballs:
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup cream (or plain yogurt)
1 onion, minced
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper
For the gravy:
1/4 cup red wine, pan juices
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cream or yogurt
Mix breadcrumbs with cream or yogurt and let stand for a while. Mince the onion. Add onion, breadcrumbs, egg and seasonings to meat. Mix until smooth.
Wet hands and shape the mixture into balls. Saute meatballs in hot oil until browned slightly. Remove the meatballs from the pan.
To make the gravy, pour off most of the cooking oil and degrease the pan with the red wine, cooking at high heat until wine is reduced by half. Add flour and stir until thickened and smooth. Add cream or yogurt and stir until smooth. Return meatballs to pan and gravy.
Optional: Add a little grated horseradish (or wasabi powder) to the meat mixture before cooking.