Get your Scandi on with Västerbottensost and try this traditional Scandinavian meatball, mash and gravy recipe.

Vasterbottensost: King of Cheeses

To say we are big cheese fans here are Fed Up and Drunk would be a huge understatement. There’s nothing we love more than getting a few blocks of the yellow stuff out,  a couple of chutneys and making light work of a large box of crackers.

But what we love most about cheese is the limitless varieties and the possibilities they bestow. Admittedly we wouldn’t grate Roquefort  on our cornflakes (not all of us, anyway) but we think there’s a cheese to improve and/or complement almost any dish – and none more so than Västerbottensost.

Vasterbottensost is known in Sweden as ‘King of Cheeses’ and it’s not difficult to see why. We got our hands on rather large lump of it in the Fed Up & Drunk office last week, and along with a pack of crackers and a delicious jar of chutney, it was devoured in seconds (I’m not kidding). Västerbottensost is a premium hard cheese with a strong, aromatic flavour and is said to be the fluke creation of dairy maid Eleonora Lindstrom who lived in Burträsk, Sweden.

M-history

According to legend, she was left alone to stir the curd of a traditional Swedish cheese but found herself ‘distracted’ on numerous occasions by visits from her lover. As the fire went out each time Eleonora became sidetracked, the curd cooled, meaning it had to be reheated and then stirred again. Due to this unorthodox method of constant heating, cooling and stirring, the cheese didn’t make the usual grade so was placed on a shelf and left there for 12 months. When the cheese was eventually tested, the taste and texture was so astoundingly good that Eleonora’s technique was replicated and Västerbottensost was born.

Now that is a cool cheese story!

Västerbottensost is as versatile as it is delicious, so here’s a traditional Scandinavian meatball, mash potato and gravy recipe – all made with this wonderful cheese.

M-meatball-lingonberries

How do the Swedish eat meatballs?
– With lingonberry jam or stirred lingonberries, mashed potatoes and gravy.
– Cold, on sandwiches
– Warm, as a side dish to a Smörgåsbord
– Warm as a side to a nice salad
– Cold, as a snack, straight from the fridge.

Serves 4: makes around 30 small meatballs
Preparation time: 1 hour, including resting

Ingredients:
– 150ml meat stock (chicken works well)
– 30g porridge oats or breadcrumbs
– 350g minced beef
– 250g minced pork (min 10% fat)
– 1 egg
– 1 tbsp. plain flour (or corn flour)
– ½ medium onion, grated
– 1 ½ tsp salt
– ½ tsp ground all-spice
– ½ tsp ground black pepper,
– ½ tsp ground white pepper
– A dash of Worcestershire sauce or soya
– 2 tbsp. cream

Preparation:
1. Soak the oats/breadcrumbs in the chicken stock for a few minutes.
2. Blend the ground meat together in a mixer with a good pinch of salt for a couple of minutes to ensure it’s thoroughly combined.
3. Add the egg, flour and spices to another bowl and mix with the soaked oats and grated onion, then add this to the meat mixture. You’ll have a sticky, but mouldable, mixture. Leave the mixture to rest for 20-25 minutes before using for best result.
4. Heat up a pan with a small knob of butter and a drop of oil and shape one small meatball. Fry it until done and then taste it. The quality of meat you use will alter the seasoning required and this is a great way to ensure your meatballs have good flavour. Adjust the seasoning according to taste and fry another meatball to test it until you get it just right.
5. Shape the individual meatballs in your hands – it helps if your hands are damp, even wet. Each meatball should be around 2½ cm in diameter.
6. Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan with a dash of oil and carefully add some of the meatballs – make sure there is plenty of room for you to swivel the pan round and help turn them so they get a uniform round shape and ensure they do not stick. Cooking time is usually around five minutes. Keep in a warm oven until needed.
7. Serve with mashed potato, cream gravy and a spoonful of ‘stirred Lingonberry’ (or store bought Lingonberry jam).

Tip: You can get Lingonberry jam in most specialty stores and also some supermarkets.

Västerbottensost mashed potato (potatismos)

Ingredients:
– 1kg good all-rounder potatoes
– 150g butter
– 200-250ml warm milk
– Salt, pepper, nutmeg, white wine vinegar
– Grated Västerbottensost, to taste

Preparation:
1. Peel the potatoes and cut into smaller pieces. Wash the starch off them, then bring to the boil in salted water. Cook until soft, then drain (preserve water for gravy).
2. Add the cubed, cold butter to the potatoes and mash together – adding milk as you go along. Season well, then add cheese to taste.

Traditional cream gravy (Gräddsås)

1. When you’re finished cooking the meatballs, keep the pan on the heat. Ensure you have enough fat in there, if not, add a knob of butter to the pan and melt.
2. Add a tablespoon of flour and stir, then add a splash of potato water with a bit of stock and whisk again as you bring to the boil.
3. Keep adding water until you have a creamy gravy, then add a good dollop of single cream and season with a few drops of soya, salt, pepper and a teaspoon of lingonberry jam or red currant jelly. The colour of the gravy should be very light brown.

Have you tried Västerbottensost? What do you think?

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