As you may or may not know, the Danes were called upon to vote for their national dish last fall, and there was a tiny scandal about the classic “frikadeller” missing from the list of options. It is true, the small, flat meatballs are a very popular dish in Denmark, served on their own or on top of an open-faced sandwich, decorated with red cabbage and pickles. No classic “frokost” (Easter, Christmas, etc.) can go without a huge bowl of these delicious little fellas.
They are quite popular in Germany, too, but with some slight differences. In my family, “Frikadellen“, as they are called in German (in some regions, they are called “Buletten”, Bavarians call them “Fleischpflanzerl”), must contain chopped onions, an egg and some breadcrumbs, and they are usually fried quite dark (my family loves those little pieces of charcoal!). The Danish variety seems to be a little more plain, and also much lighter.
I thought it would be a nice touch to take a go at this indisputable classic of both Danish and German cuisine, but I wanted to spice it up a notch. I had recently acquired (i.e. stolen from my mom’s kitchen) a glass of Turkish seven-spice (yedi türlü). It contains paprika, coriander, cucuma, cumin, pepper, sumac, thyme, fenugreek, mustard powder, laurel and garlic (yes, I counted 11 ingredients, too, despite the name!). If you can’t get your hands on this spice mix, there’s a recipe to make your own here, or you can simply use your preferred mix of the spices you have at hand. Seven-spice smells delicious and immediately evokes thoughts of deliciously grilled meat. I could also imagine it would be great as a barbecue rub, for example for chicken – I’ll have to try that soon! In addition, I’ve used a bit of sambal oelek, a red chili paste, but I imagine a dollop of Sriracha sauce would also work wonders. If you don’t like it very spicy, just adjust the amount down a little bit, or omit. This paste is normally easily available at supermarkets.
These would also make excellent finger food, I think – just make them a bit smaller and serve on individual sticks with a dab of mint yogurt or tzatziki on top! The amounts in this recipe make enough for a nice dinner for two – potentially with 2 or 3 leftover frikadeller to put on your smørrebrød for lunch the day after. Enjoy!
For the frikadeller:
(makes 8-10, or about 18 mini)
450g ground beef (I use 3-6% fat)
2 small shallots, finely diced
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp yedi türlü (Turkish seven-spice mix)
1/2 tsp sambal oelek (raw red chili paste)
For the sweet potato fries:
400g sweet potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp spices (paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper)
For the cucumber salad:
1 medium cucumber
3 tbsp creme fraiche or plain yogurt
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dill (dried or fresh, if at hand)
salt and pepper, to taste
Start by preheating your oven to 200°C (use the hot air setting). Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into fries – they should be roughly the same size, but you don’t have to be too pedantic about it. Spread them on the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and spices (excluding the salt). Using your hands, distribute the oil-spice-mix evenly on the sweet potatoes. Bake for about 15min, or until softened.
In a bowl, combine the ground beef, onion, egg and breadcrumbs. Season with yedi türlü, sambal oelek, salt and pepper. Knead with your hands until evenly combined (I recommend using disposable gloves). In a large pan, heat some butter or Becel – I don’t recommend frying the frikadeller in oil. Form evenly sized meatballs and flatten them slightly before putting them in the pan. Cook 8-10min on medium heat, flipping occasionally, until they are fully cooked. I like them dark, but feel free to cook them however you fancy.
While the frikadeller cook, prepare the dressing for the cucumber salad by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Season to taste. Thoroughly wash the cucumber (peel if you prefer), half it, and scratch out the watery seeds with a spoon. Then shred the cucumber using a kitchen machine or grater – if you don’t have one, slice as thinly as you can. Toss with the dressing.
Take the sweet potato fries out of the oven and season with salt. Serve immediately with the hot frikadeller and the cucumber salad on the side!
Pro tip: Both the frikadeller and the sweet potato fries go very well with some spicy ketchup! Simply mix some store-bought (or homemade!) ketchup with some sambal oelek or a bit of Sriracha sauce for that extra heat.
Building little frikadeller-towers is highly encouraged! Some say they taste even better that way.
I bet you’re hungry now! How do you make your favorite Danish frikadeller (or German Frikadellen)? Let me know in the comments below!