Friday, June 14, 2013

Goodness Gracious, Great Balls O’ Meat!


This month’s Daring Cooks challenge was focused on meatballs! Some sort of meatballs appear on our weekly menus quite frequently, but, in keeping with the challenge theme of ‘Meatballs around the world’, we thought this would be a great opportunity to explore meatballs around the world a bit more broadly. We  ended up making several diverse recipes, all of which were (in our not so humble opinions) delicious – but ultimately I think one stood out as being our new favorite meatball. Our foray into the world of meatballs begins with…



One of our favorite new cookbooks is Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. This contains a wide array of delicious dishes from the city where the authors grew up – including at least 5 meatball recipes. We started out with Turkey and Zucchini meatballs – a slightly odd-sounding combination, but the addition of the zucchini kept the turkey wonderfully moist. They were seasoned with mint, cilantro, cumin and garlic and also incorporated some green onions. We also made the sour cream and sumac sauce that accompanies the recipe (though our plating technique needs a little work – how do they get those elegant swooshes of sauce that you see in fine restaurants?)


From the Middle East, we headed North to…



Our meatball trip to Spain was inspired by a recipe for Spanish pork with olives – I have this in an old handwritten recipe book, and I think it originally came from the popular British chef Delia Smith. Rather than use chunks of pork, we made pork meatballs and incorporated one of the more unusual recipe ingredients – pimento-stuffed green olives – into the meatballs themselves. We also spiced things up a bit with some smoked paprika. The dish was served with roasted green beans and patatas bravas: traditionally, fried potatoes, though we made ours a bit more healthy by coating them in some salt, pepper, cumin and  smoked paprika, then roasting them in the oven with a light spray of olive oil.

Here, then, is our version of Spanish Pork Meatballs:

1/4 onion, minced
6 pimento-stuffed green olives, finely chopped
1/2 lb ground pork
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 small clove garlic, minced
salt and black pepper

3/4 onion, sliced (use the rest of the onion that you used in the meatballs!)
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced to same size as the onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp flour
14oz can diced tomatoes
Generous splash of red wine
1/4 tsp dried basil
salt and black pepper

For the meatballs: mix all the ingredients thoroughly and form into golf ball-sized meatballs. Place in a single layer in a microwave-proof container and microwave for 2 minutes, rolling them around a bit after the first minute.


For the sauce: saute the onion and bell pepper in olive oil over medium heat until soft, about 5-10 minutes, Add the garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes more. Add the flour and stir to coat the vegetables evenly, then mix in the tomatoes, red wine, basil, salt and pepper. When simmering, add the meatballs and reduce heat to low, then cook (covered) for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.



San Francisco, California


Of course, we couldn’t do a world tour of meatballs without visiting our home city of San Francisco! This is our interpretation of Veal Meatballs with Green Peppercorn Sauce, from San Francisco’s Town Hall restaurant. You can find the recipe online here. The recipe calls for pork and beef in addition to veal, and whilst we often incorporate several kinds of meat for added complexity, we just used veal and pork this time.

The meatballs also incorporate a panade (bread soaked in milk) and some cheese. Instead of frying them as per the recipe, we used our tried and tested microwave technique. Cooking for a few minutes in the microwave always gives us nicely done meatballs without the worry that they are going to stick to the pan.

As you can see from the picture, the sauce is not just green peppercorns, but also includes red wine, port and cream (not to mention brandy!). Served over homemade fettuccine, this was not exactly health food but it was very tasty and the recipe gets the Monkeyshines Seal of Approval.

Back to Jerusalem!


We couldn’t resist trying one more recipe from Jerusalem, so we embarked on making Beef meatballs with fava beans and lemon. We were so glad we did – this recipe is awesome! There are many, many herbs and spices involved – almost too many at first sight – but they all come together in tasty balls of deliciousness. The meatballs are the dry kind (with breadcrumbs instead of soaked bread; pictured at the top of this post) but they definitely didn’t taste dry. In addition to beef, there is onion, garlic, cumin, capers, mixed green herbs and baharat spice mix. Luckily, we had recently prepared this spice mix for another recipe in the book and had some left over. It contains black peppercorns, coriander seed, cinnamon, clove, allspice, cumin, cardamom and nutmeg.

But wait, we aren’t done yet! The sauce consists of garlic, green onions, lemon juicem chicken stock and more of those fresh freen herbs (we were lucky to make this in spring, when the farmers market is overflowing with big bunches of fresh herbs). The fava beans were blanched and added towards the end: although the recipe calls for a mixture of intact and peeled favas, we peeled them all since it was getting to the end of fava bean season and they were a bit big to leave whole.

What a riot of flavor (thanks Yotam and Sami!) – I think we have a new favorite meatball recipe! The only sad part was that we devoured them all in a few minutes…

The June Daring Cooks’ challenge sure kept us rolling – meatballs, that is! Shelley from C Mom Cook and Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to try meatballs from around the world and to create our own meatball meal celebrating a culture or cuisine of our own choice.

Thanks Shelley and Ruth, for a great challenge!


  1. What a delicious trip around the world you had this month! I really wish I could have been there to try each and every version because they all look outstanding. Now to decide which ones to try first... :) Thank so much for cooking with us!

  2. What an amazingly delicious assortment of meatballs, each recipe more tempting than the next.

  3. Wow, you've been busy! They all look so good. I love your Spanish version and the meatballs with the broad beans. Why don't I have Jerusalem yet?? The recipes from it look and sound consistently delicious.

  4. I keep coming back here looking for more sausage. Chop chop. ;D

    1. Well since you mention it we did put up a few lb of salame picante yesterday... I am sure pictures and a tasting report will follow :-)