Among the most memorable moments of our recent overseas trip was a visit to the Vasa Museet in Stockholm. It would be my second visit to both, and I was so excited to be taking my man to see this magnificent museum, I could barely contain myself.
The Vasa Museet is the most visited museum in the Scandinavian region - attracting more than one million visitors annually, and over 35 million visitors since the ancient battle ship was unveiled to the public. Built over an old dry dock from the 1800s, the Vasa Museet is a world class facility with unique design, created for a unique object.
As background the Vasa was a warship built in the 1600s for Sweden's King Gustavus II Adolphus. The royal ship was the most expensive and richly ornamented vessel of its time, with hundreds of gilded and painted sculptures. The Vasa's hull was made from one thousand oak trees and her masts were more than fifty metres tall. On 10 August 1628, the ship set out on her maiden voyage, but capsized and sank in the harbour having sailed only 1,300 metres. All immediate attempts to raise her failed, however 64 cannons were salvaged between 1664 and 1683.
On 24 April, 1961, 333 years after she sank, the Vasa emerged from the deep thanks to the efforts of the Swedish Navy and a salvaging company. A temporary museum was built to house the vessel, enabling preservation work to commence. Between 1963 and 1967, divers discovered more than 40,000 objects in the seabed, and some of these are on display in the museum. Among the items are candlesticks, board games, combs, thimbles, gloves, shoes, hats, coins, cookware, wooden plates and spoons and pewter vessels. Of course there's ammunition of all kinds, too. Cannonballs, bullets, gun ladles, muskets and axes, among other things. Barrels of meat, porridge, butter and spirits were also found on board.
On my second visit to see the Vasa, I stood transfixed, just as I had done the first time I saw her. Peter, too, was in absolute awe. We spent four or five hours exploring the many treasures on show in the museum. And then stood and looked some more. Finally, when the hunger pangs became unbearable, we made our way to the canteen for a bite to eat. Peter ordered the meatballs. I had smoked fish. What can I tell you. Peter was the outright 'winner' with those meatballs.
While we were still in Stockholm, my darling cousin, Carolina, invited us to dinner one evening and made a huge batch of delicious meatballs especially for Peter. I watched her making them. She also cooked some moose for him, but then that's another story.
My recipe for Swedish meatballs...
I promised Peter that I'd make him some Swedish meatballs as soon as we got home from overseas, and so I did. My preference is to bake, rather than fry, the meatballs so that they are lower in fat. I've made them many times over now and feel that my recipe is a keeper.
For the meatballs:
500g lean pork mince
500g lean beef mince
1 small red/Spanish onion, or an eschallot, very finely chopped
1/8th teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons rice crumbs or breadcrumbs
olive oil spray, to bake
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon plain (AP) flour or gluten free flour
2/3 cup beef stock
35mls soy sauce
1/2 cup pouring cream, perhaps a little more
5g dried chanterelle mushroom (optional)
2-3 button mushrooms, finely diced
white pepper, to taste
steamed or baked baby potatoes
steamed green beans, or salad greens if preferred
lingonberries or lingonberry jam*
First make the meatballs. Combine the mince, onion, allspice, salt pepper and crumbs in a large Pyrex bowl. Mix well with clean hands. Form into neatly-shaped balls, about 50g each.
Heat your oven to 180 degrees C. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper. Arrange the meatballs on the tray, spray with the oil and bake for 30 minutes. Pour any cooking juices into a small jug and keep aside. This will add good flavour to the sauce.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. If using the chanterelles, reconstitute them in a little boiling water and reserve the soaking liquid. Cook the butter and flour together in a saucepan. Add the finely diced button mushrooms to the pan and cook for a minute longer. Slowly whisk in the beef stock, stirring out any lumps. Then pour in the soy sauce and the cream, followed by the pan juices from the meatballs (and the chanterelles and liquid, if using). Season to taste with white pepper. If the sauce is too thick, add a little extra cream or beef stock, but remember you are also going to add the cooking juices from the meatballs.
If you feel the sauce needs more flavour, add a pinch of porcini salt.
Finally, add the meatballs to the saucepan and heat through. Serve the meatballs topped with sauce, and the baby potatoes, greens and lingonberries or lingonberry jam on the side. Serves 6-8, depending on appetites.
*Lingonberry jam can be found at Aldi Supermarkets and also at IKEA stores.
Words and images are copyright Liz Posmyk, Good Things.
Postcards and morsels from the Vasa...
Look closely at the image above and you'll see people on the ground level, to the left, as well as on the viewing platforms around this magnificent ship. This might give you a feel of the overall size of the Vasa.
A handful of the artefacts on display at the Vasa Museum...
The Vasa Museet/Museum...
You'll find the Vasa Museet at Galärvarvsvägen 14 in Stockholm. You can get there on foot, by subway, tram, ferry or car. For the tram, jump on at Harbour Street at the King's Garden City tram number 7. Get off at the Nordic Museum. Tours of the Vasa Museum take place every day. Entry price is approximately 130 SEK. Children under 18 are free. For more information, visit the web site.
Tell me friends, have you ever tasted or cooked Swedish meatballs? And have you been to the Vasa Museet in Stockholm?
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.