I often get asked by people how I manage to write about Norwegian food now that I’ve gone vegan. After all, 90% of the classic dishes contain some type of animal product, whether it be meat, fish, eggs or dairy. The beautiful thing is that it is quite possible to recreate almost any dish using plant based foods. Being relatively new to the vegan world, I am amazed every day at the creativity of my plant loving fellow chefs and recipe developers out there. There are plenty of fabulous Norwegian plant based cooks and food writers, one of them is Jane, author and creator of the site veganmisjonen.com. She is known throughout the Norwegian vegetarian community for coming up with the fabulous “vegisterkaker”, a riff off the classic “medisterkaker”, pork meat patties that are served with the traditional Norwegian Christmas dish, “ribber, or pinnekjøtt (more meat in the form of mutton…). Now I love little piglets too much to make these anymore, but I can tell you that Jane’s vegisterkaker are amazingly tasty and will be part of my yearly holiday meal going forward. She inspired me to come up with a recipe for Norwegian “kjøttkaker”, or meatballs. Many people are forced to watch their red meat intake these days due to deteriorating health, so even though you may not be vegan, want to avoid having too much of this in your diet. Red meat is packed with saturated fat, and can cause clogging of arteries, increasing risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, not to mention the environmental impact of raising meat; to produce a four-ounce (quarter pound) hamburger, for example, requires 7 pounds of grain and forage, 53 gallons of drinking water and irrigating feed crops, 75 square feet for grazing and growing feed crops, and 1,036 BTUs for feed production and transport—enough to power a microwave for 18 minutes. Something to think about!
Yes, an oxymoron, you might say – why call them “meatballs” if they do not contain meat at all? To me, these look exactly like the meatballs I made when I used to eat meat, and dare I say- taste even better. Made with cooked lentils, brown jasmine rice, some ground up oats and chopped parsley with lots of warming spices; these made my big meat eating husband squeal in delight. (He even had the leftovers the following night!). He first started whining when I suggested I make them, expressing “I want REAL meatballs!”, then after he tasted these, he quickly quieted down, and scraped his bowl clean. Mission accomplished!! I serve my “meatballs” with mashed potatoes, mashed peas and lingonberry sauce. I no longer miss my mom’s meatballs, that’s how good these are! Try them out and let me know what you think!
NORWEGIAN MEATLESS MEATBALLS
Makes about 14-6 meatballs
1 Vidalia (sweet onion), chopped and sauteed (I like to caramelize them for additional flavor)
2 cups cooked brown basmati rice
1 1/2 cups cooked brown lentils
3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats, coarsely ground in blender/food processor
1/4 cup all purpose flour (or use gluten free flour if you want to keep recipe gluten free)
1-2 tbsp olive oil (use about 1/3 cup vegetable stock if you want to avoid oil)3
3 tbsp tamari
1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (this adds a rich, cheesy flavor and contains B12 vitamins)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp-1tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp smoked or sweet paprika
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for sauteeing
Cook the lentils and rice according to the package directions, let cool. Place them in the bowl with the ground oats.
In a medium or large saute pan, saute the onion until caramelized. Add the onions to the lentil mixture and add all other ingredients. Combine with a spoon and stir until the mixture is thick and sticking together, about 2-3 minutes. Using a spoon form the meatballs into sizes of a golf ball and place on a tray. I like to flatten them a bit to ensure they cook evenly and don’t burn on the outside and cook all the way through in the middle.
Prepare a saute pan over medium heat with a touch of olive oil. I like to test a small piece of the mixture first to see if it needs additional seasoning. Saute the meatballs in batches of 5 or so, and place on a tray while you prepare the gravy.
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp vegan butter
2-3 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
touch of nutmeg
1-2 tbsp lingonberry relish
1-2 tbsp fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary and/or oregano, chopped
1/2 cup almond or other plant based milk
In a saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the butter and cook for a couple of minutes, until the roux browns a bit and the flour is all cooked out. Slowly start adding in the vegetable stock, constantly whisking. Add enough vegetable stock until you have the consistency you want. Add in the nutritional yeast, spices, fresh herbs and lingonberry relish, finish with the almond (or other plant based) milk, whisk again, season with salt and pepper to taste.
ERTESTUING (Mashed Peas)
This popular, ultra Norwegian side dish is versatile and can be used as a companion to many meals. Most commonly known as the side kick to the famous (dreaded?) “lutefisk”, I certainly prefer it with my kjøttkaker. Simple, but satisfying – just remember to season well – nobody wants bland peas!!
2 cups green peas (frozen is ok, just thaw them first)
1 tbsp vegan butter
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp sugar
about 1/2 cup of plant based milk (almond, cashew, soy)
If using fresh peas, soak them overnight. Cook them according to the package in lots of salted water, about 1 – 1 ½ hour. Drain. (otherwise if using frozen peas, all you need to do is thaw them ). Melt the butter in a sauce pan, whisk in the flour. Add in a splash of plant baed milk and whisk until smooth. Fold in the peas and let them simmer for about 10 minutes. Season with sugar, salt and pepper.