Sometimes Mike and I will go to Ikea just for the meatballs. The furniture shopping is pretty much secondary. I also have a thing for Ikea’s mac and cheese (it’s sacrilege, I know) but that’s a story for another time. Ikea meatballs appeal to me not because they’re the tastiest meatballs I’ve ever eaten (they’re not) but because they bring me back to a time when food made everything alright.
It was right after I graduated from university. I was feeling pretty confused about life and where I was heading. I was living in my pajamas and not really eating or getting out of the house much. One day my brother asked me to tag along on an Ikea run. He and my sister-in-law were in the middle of moving houses and he needed to pick up some random organizational stuff.
I didn’t really want to get dressed and go, but Kevin insisted. “We’ll have meatballs,” he said. “You haven’t eaten yet, right?” It was true, I hadn’t eaten yet and I wasn’t really planning to. Food didn’t have the same allure for me as it did when I was happy. Nonetheless, I got dressed and we drove to Ikea, mostly in silence. My fault really – it’s hard to hold a conversation with someone when they only grunt or reply with one word answers.
I wasn’t hungry, but I got a kid’s size plate of meatballs and the mac and cheese too (love that stuff!). Before we started eating, Kev said, “don’t worry, everything has a way of working itself out in the end.” He gave me a big hug and of course I teared up. I concentrated on eating while he concentrated on trying to ignore the fact that I was about to have a breakdown.
The combination of trying not to cry and eating at the same time really made me taste the flavours of the meatballs. And for the first time in the past few days, food actually tasted good. The meatballs were delicious! With some food in my tummy and my brother at my side, I felt just a bit better about life.
From that day forward Ikea meatballs have been one my many guilty pleasures. They just make me feel good when I eat them! I admit, even today I have a bag of frozen Ikea meatballs in the freezer. So, when I saw a recipe for meatballs on the Ikea website, I decided to make them.
It’s a pretty standard meatball recipe: ground meat, breadcrumbs and seasoning. For me, the surprise ingredients were the potatoes and ground pork. I had no idea that the meatballs weren’t all-beef. Also, the recipe calls for the balls to be pan-fried in butter. I always thought they were baked, but frying gives them that great texture contrast between the crispy outsides and the soft potato-y insides.
We did a little taste test and the homemade meatballs ended up tasting quite similar to Ikea’s, but the Ikea version was a touch more dry, perhaps due to the fact that they’re cooked, frozen and re-heated. This homemade version would be easy to whip up, bake-off and freeze. Maybe I won’t be buying bags of meatballs anymore after all!
Ikea Swedish Meatball Recipe slightly adapted from ikea-friends.com
yield: 16 large meatballs
- 1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
2.5 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko)
2 small potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
salt and white pepper
1/4 teaspoon all spice
Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks. Place in a small pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until fork tender and drain well. You can mash the potatoes at this point, or if you have a potato ricer, use the potato ricer for fluffy potato grains. Set aside until completely cool.
In a frying pan, melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat and brown the onions. Remove and set aside.
Mix all the ingredients until homogenous and flavour generously with salt, white pepper and the all spice. Shape the meat into balls.
In a large, non-stick frying pan, heat up the remaining butter over medium heat. Fry the meatballs slowly, turning when needed, until a golden-brown crust forms and the meatball is cooked throughout.