It always amazes me how much the culinary world changed after the discovery of the Americas by the end of the 1400’s. Take for example these finnish meatballs. In Finland people say that Lihapullat (meatballs) are not Finnish if they don’t contain Allspice. Not that I have any problem with that, but allspice (Pimienta dioca) is originally from Jamaica. In fact, the trees that produces these spicy seeds can only grow on tropical climates and are killed by frosts. Not exactly the kind of crop for Finland’s weather.
But this is not the only example. Talk about potatoes, used as an essential staple of many european tables. Pomme frites (french fries) anyone? What would italians do without their tomatoes? Nowadays some of the best Chocolatiers of the world are found in Belgium and Germany. And don’t even get me started with squashes. Even the common peanut and a wide variety of peppers found their way through Europe and also Asia to become part of their everyday cooking.
But in Finland, as in most of the most northern Scandinavian countries, the introduction of these American foods was very limited. Except for the common potato (who seems to be using us humans on its quest to conquer the world) and a few spices, Finland’s food remains true to its Viking’s origins. Lots of animal protein such as mutton, beef, and pork were the focus of their diet. Of course being a seafaring society, seafood was also highly used. They supplemented their diets by using many forms of dairy products. Also a variety of vegetables like carrots, parsnip, cabbage and the like was used as well. Archaeological evidence shows the use of dill, coriander, caraway, wild celery, mustard, horseradish and many others.
Every recipe for Lihapullat I could find would not contain any seasonings from the area. Only the Jamaican allspice is added as a requisite for them to be considered truly Finnish. That’s why I did my bit of research about spices from the area and decided to incorporate caraway (Carum carvi). Why? Just to add a feel of Viking heritage to them. Maybe that’s just my romantic palate talking, but the results were phenomenal.
Afterall, Finland currently supplies 28% of the world’s Caraway. The earthy, peppery and a bit citrusy taste of this spice enhanced the flavor of the meatballs and complemented the allspice perfectly. Also, being one of the main ingredients of the famous Scandinavian spirit Aquavit, adding it to the meatballs seemed to be the perfect match for some Aquavit Negroni. Add some sweet sauce on the side such as lingonberry jelly and the combination will be an instant party on your mouth.
Although I decided to serve these succulent finnish meatballs as a cocktail snack, they are most commonly used as a main dish as well. They are usually paired with mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables and lingonberry jelly. If you rather go that way, wait for tomorrow’s post where I’ll be discussing a fairly interesting way of the Finlanders use when making mashed potatoes. For the time being, I hope you all enjoy this delicious Finland’s take on meatballs.
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground caraway seeds
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 3 tbsp sour cream + heavy cream to complete 3/4 cups
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 egg
- 1 small onion (grated)
- In a bowl mix the breadcrumbs with salt, allspice, caraway, pepper and paprika. Add the sour cream - heavy cream mixture and let the crumbs absorb the liquids for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile on a separate bowl, combine the meat with the egg and grated onion using a wooden spoon. Once the crumbs have absorbed the creams mix all of the ingredients together.
- Prepare a sheet pan by lightly spraying with oil or butter. Preheat the oven to 425° F.
- Have a bowl of water available to lightly water your hands to prepare the meatballs. Using a small spoon grab a bit of the meat mixture and roll with wet hands to produce balls that are about 2 inch in diameter. Transfer each ball to the prepared baking sheet leaving about 2 inches between each ball.
- Transfer the meatballs to the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. You could take them out half way through to turn them upside down, but I rather like the crispy texture on the bottom when I don't rotate them.
- Serve immediately!