Sunday, 6 November 2016

Swedish meatballs for Karlson on the roof and Smidge - #ReadCookEat

Karslon on the roof

Karlson on the Roof by Astrid Lindgren was one of my favourite childhood books. For some strange reason it is not well known here, in the UK. If you mention Astrid Lindgren, most people would remember Pippi Longstocking, and that's all, which is truly sad. Lindgren is the most wonderful author who wrote so many books for children. As a child, I loved Scandinavian literature - the amazing Moomins by Tove Jansson, the Little Red Rascal by Jan Ekholm (another book which you cannot find anywhere apart from a couple of private sellers on amazon who charge crazy money for it)... Just last week I found an old copy of When the robbers came to Cardamom Town by T.Egner, and bought it so that Eddie can enjoy it too.
In the last week or so I have been reading to him Karlson on the Roof before bedtime. For me it is a real trip down the memory lane.
It is a wonderful story about a 7-year-old boy Smidge who goes on all sorts of mischievous adventures with his best friend Karlson. Karlson is an extraordinary creature who has a propeller on his back and can fly. He is extremely selfish, egocentric, quite greedy and very very childish. He also happens to have a little house on the roof.
There are three books in the series, which as a child I read in one thick volume.
Alas, this version published by OUP is not the best one. It is translated by Sarah Death who went for the simplistic way of changing most of the Swedish names in the book into English names. For example, Smidge's siblings Bosse and Bettan become Seb and Sally. Poor Svante aka Smidge is turned into Steven. Just why? Isn't it rather patronising for the translator to presume British children won't be able to understand the Swedish names? This unfortunate change makes the book less authentic.
I also don't like the nickname Smidge. It is Lillebror in Swedish which means "little brother". In Russian translation it comes as a lovely cute "Malysh", and it is much closer to the original than Smidge.
The illustrations by Tony Ross are a great disappointment as well, if you compare them to the original artwork by Ilon Wikland.

Karlson on the roof

Eddie's been listening with great interest to the story of the mischievous duo.

Karlson loves his food, and there are quite a few mentions of traditional Swedish meals, like meatballs.

"Just then, Smidge caught the first waft of frying meatballs from the kitchen... It's never a good idea to disturb mothers when they are frying meatballs...
Karlson had finished strutting. He was standing there, sniffing the air like a retriever.
"Meatballs, he said, I do like dear little, yummy little meatballs"...
Smidge slipped out into the kitchen. Mum was standing at the stove, wearing a checked apron and enveloped in the most wonderful smell of meatballs. She was shaking the big frying pan over the gas flame, and the pan was as full as can be of lovely little brown meatballs, all jumping about.
"Hello, Smidge, said Mum. We'll be eating soon"
"Please, Mum, can I have a few meatballs on a saucer, to take into my room?" said Smidge in his persuading voice."

I have searched for the Swedish meatballs recipes online. There were a couple of recipes which looked very good - check out Swedish Meatballs on AllRecipes and Swedish Meatballs on Simply Recipes.

My version is an amalgamation of several recipes found online, as I have adapted it to what I had in the kitchen.
Swedish Meatballs
2 slices of slightly stale white bread, thickly sliced and with crusts removed
100ml double cream
1tbsp milk
2tbsp butter + more for frying meatballs
1 medium sweet onion, finely sliced
a pack of lean beef (454g)
1 medium egg
1/2tsp nutmeg
1tsp sea salt
350ml fresh beef stock
1 tbsp cornflour, to thicken the sauce
3 heaped tbsp soured cream

First break the slightly stale crustless bread into big crumbs, place in a medium bowl, pour cream and milk over it, and let it soak for about 10 minutes.
In the meantime fry the finely sliced sweet onion in butter, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the onion is golden brown. Remove from the heat.
In a big mixing bowl mix together now soggy bread with the onion. Add the minced beef, break in an egg, season with salt and nutmeg. Using hands, pinch pieces about 1tbsp of mince, roll each meatball.
Melt the butter - about 2tbsp - in a big skillet. Fry the meatballs, in two batches, until the meatballs are well browned on all sides. Remove from the heat. At this stage, the meat inside will still be pink.
Now you can either cook them further on the hob in a deep frying pan, or cook in the oven - like I did - in a deep ceramic pot.
Place all the meatballs carefully into the pot. Pour all the remains of butter from the frying pan inside, and add half of the beef stock. Cook in the oven for about 40 minutes at 180C. Half an hour into the cooking, mix 1tbsp of cornflour with 100ml of cold beef stock, and pour the mix into the pot.
In the last 5 minutes, add the soured cream.
Serve with mashed potatoes.
Oh my goodness, this is a feast of gods. The meatballs and mash are a marriage made in heaven, soooo delicious.

When Karlson ate the meatballs cooked by Mum, he said "Delicious. Mighty tasty meatball! You might almost think the world's best meatball maker had made it, though we know he can't have done" (Karslon is most convinced that he himself is the best at everything).
While I've not cooked them exactly like Smidge's Mum (i.e.just on the stove), I hope Karlson would approve of these delicious meatballs too.

Have you read a book recently which inspired you to run to the kitchen and cook to your heart's content?

I hope you are inspired by books to join in the #ReadCookEat challenge.

The idea is to choose a book, either a world classic or modern fiction, or even memoirs and pick up a dish mentioned or described in that book and then recreate it in a recipe. Please say a few lines about your chosen book, and maybe even do a quote from the book.

If you decide to take part, please add the badge to your post and link up back to me, and either use a link-up tool or add the url of your post as a comment. Alternatively, email me with the link to your post (my email is sasha1703 at yahoo dot com).

I promise to Pin all blogs posts taking part in this challenge, as well as RT and Google+


  1. LOL I read that as flying meatballs. The recipe looks fab though. Really must get reading and cooking

    1. They were certainly flying fast. :) Very tasty meatballs.

  2. I wonder if these are like the famous Ikea meatballs that everyone is always raving about - I've never tried them so I have no idea what all the fuss is about !!

    1. I've never visited Ikea, it's too far to travel. I also heard about their famous meatballs. :)