14 June 2013

Daring Cooks - The Meatball World Tour

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.

This theme was welcomed with open arms over here by my willing test subjects.  Meatballs, and minced meat in general, are always very much appreciated at our dinner table even though I often tend to privilege other cuts.  Needless to say that when I revealed the new theme for this month's DC Challenge, my usual eaters were already champing at the bit. :o)

Let me take you on a trip across the world, at the discovery of one type of preparation that you can find in almost any cuisine : meatballs. This way, please.

First stop, just around the corner (at least for me) : Belgium, for a taste of the famous Boulets liégeois, or Meatballs from Liège, a city located at the east of Belgium, as you can see in the map to the right.

Boulets liégeois is a real institution, to the point that there even is a brotherhood, la Confrèrie du Gay Boulet, dedicated not only to making the boulets known all over the world but also to perpetuate of this dish and its "ancestral" recipe.  There are obviously as many versions of the boulets as there are cooks preparing it, everyone adding their little twist to it.

For this challenge, I decided to stick to the recipe offered by the brotherhood.  After all, if I am going to introduce this specialty to a worldwide audience, the least I can do, is to share an approved recipe :o)

Ingredients for Boulets à la liégeoise :

For the meatballs (about 6)

* 500 gr. minced meat (pork/beef)
* 1 onion, finely chopped
* chopped parsleys
* 2 slices of toast bread (soaked in milk)
* 1 egg
* crushed breadcrumbs
* salt, pepper and nutmeg

For the sauce

* 2 big onions, coarsely chopped
* 1 bay leaf
* 2 cloves
* a sprig of thyme
* a few juniper berries
* 2 Tbsp of  Vrai Sirop de Liège
* 4 Tbsp of cassonnade (natural brown sugar)
* 500ml beef stock
* 2 Tbsp corn starch
* a dash of (red) wine vinegar
* (raisins)
* salt, pepper

Boulets à la liégeoise


Preheat your oven to 180°C.

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together until you have a homogeneous preparation.  Moisten your hands to prevent the meat from sticking to them while you roll your balls.  For the boulets, you should have balls of about 100g, but you can also make them smaller, in which case they will be called boulettes.

Grease an ovenproof pan and place the meatballs on it.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes.

Brown 4 roughly diced onions with the thyme leaves, 1 bay leaf and 2 cloves using a knob of butter.  Add 4 tablespoons of brown sugar and let it boil to a caramel before deglazing with a dash of wine vinegar.

Add the beef stock to the onions, season to taste with salt and pepper and add 2 tablespoons of  Vrai Sirop de Liège.  Genuine Sirop de Liège is, as the name indicates, a speciality of the Liège region and is basically a type of fruit butter made from apples, pears and dates, following a recipe dating back to 1937.  If you'd like to know, how it is made you can see and read about the whole process on this page.  

Let the sauce simmer on low heat for 35 to 40 minutes.  Thicken the sauce with a spoonful of cornstarch and finish it with some raisins and juniper berries (I ran out of raisins, so I omitted them in my dish).  If needed, you can correct the seasoning, adding salt or pepper to taste.

Add the meatballs to the sauce and let them simmer on a low heat for a few minutes, before serving (preferably with homemade fries).

A souvenir from Frigiliana

I hope you enjoyed this Belgian take on meatballs and although I am sure you'd like to get acquainted with other typically Belgian dishes, we're packing up our gear and heading south.  Our next destination?  Sunny Spain with the recipe for Albóndigas en salsa, made with a recipe from Javi Recetas.

Ingredients (2 servings) :

* 400g minced meat (veal/pork)
* 1 (very) large onion, thinly sliced
* 100g peas
* 4 garlic cloves
* 250ml chicken stock
* 125ml white wine
* 1 large egg
* 1 Tbsp of freshly chopped parsley
* 1 Tbsp of breadcrumbs
* safron powder
* 1 laybeaf
* 8 Tbsp of olive oil
* all purpose flour
* water
* salt & pepper

Albóndigas en salsa
Directions :

In order to soften the onion that will be incorporated into the meatballs, blanch about 30g of sliced onion and one garlic clove. Plunge them in boiling water, remove them after 2 minutes and shock them with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Heat up the 8 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and add the remainder of the (uncooked) onion, three thinly diced garlic cloves, a bayleaf, a tsp of salt and let it cook in low heat. The onion shouldn't colour, so if it seems that it is browning too quickly, add one teaspoon of water from time to time.

While the vegetables are cooking, thinly dice the blanched onion and garlic. In a large bowl mix together the minced meat, the parsley, onion, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs and season witth salt and pepper.
Once all the ingredients are well blended into a homogeneous meat mixture, it's time to start rolling the meatballs.  This recipe yields about 12 to 14 of them (4cm).

Heat up the chicken stock.

Add the frying oil (I used regular olive oil) in a skillet and while the oil is heating up, roll all the meatballs in a shallow dish of all purpose flour and shake off any excess flour.  When the oil has reached the required temperature, fry the meatballs in one or two batches until they are golden brown. Set aside.

Meanwhile the onion should be cooked and lightly coloured.  Add a tablespoon of flour to the onion/garlic mix and toss around for a minute.  Add the white wine and increase the heat under the skillet.  Add the meatballs and when the wine has reduced slightly, add the hot chicken stock and let it cook for an additional 5 minutes

Add the saffron powder and the peas and let simmer for about 10 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and the peas are cooked to your liking.  Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve with fried potatoes and enjoy a delicious meal.

I hope you have enjoyed these other flavours, because we are continuing our voyage south and this time all the way down to the Southern hemisphere.  Buckle your seatbells ... we are going to South Africa, because I heard they make delicious Frikkadels over there. Don't forget we are on a meatball journey, after all. :o)

I have to admit that I never heard of frikkadels before entering this meatball world tour.  But the whole point to the Daring Kitchen challenges is to step out of our comfort zones and venture out into the great culinary unknown, right?  

Looking for possible meatball variations through our faithful friend Google, I ended up on the Traci's website, LottaMadness. She has a fun blog covering all kinds of subjects (amongst recipes), so I invite you to take a look over there, but the post that grabbed my attention was the one in which she shared her recipe for Frikkadels.  I tweaked her recipe a bit because I couldn't find the chutney and used the pork I had in the fridge. I came across another version of this recipe that used coriander instead of parsley but as my meatball testing panel has a profound aversion to my favourite herb, I didn't get to try it out.  Maybe it's worth a try if you like the typical coriander taste.

Ingredients :

* 500g minced pork
* ½ cup of oat bran
* 1 onion, chopped
* 1 cup of chopped parsley
* 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
* 2 tbsp apricot jam
* 1 egg, lightly beaten
* salt & pepper

Directions :

So easy, you can hardly call these "directions" : mix all the ingredients together, roll spoonfuls of the meat mixture into balls and fry them in some oil.

And that's it :o)  I ate them hot and cold and loved them both ways.

Our Meatball World Tour is nearing its final destination. We are leaving South Afrika, land of braai and frikkadels, behind us and are heading to the land of the rising sun for our last meatball tasting.  [For your info, the illustration was not shot in Japan, but in Brussels (the far east at my doorstep :o)]

Japanese Tower, BrusselsJapan is traditionally associated with rice, sushi and seafood but I feel that tsukune also deserve their place in this list.  Chicken meatballs glazed in a delicious terriyaki sauce, who can say no to that?

Before moving on to the recipe, I have to share the source of this delicious Asian meatball, namely one of my favourite Youtube Channels for Japanese food i.e. Cooking with Dog.  Aside from the fact that the recipes are always well explained (although in a rather odd sounding English), what makes this channel so different from the other recipe channel is ... you guessed it, the dog.  Personally, I think cooking in front of a poodle perched on a bar stool is just hilarious and a brilliant marketing concept. :o)

I didn't stick completely to the directions provided by the video, so I will be sharing my take on this recipe.
Ingredients :

For the meatballs :

* 300g minced chicken
* 4 scallions, thinly sliced
* 1 egg
* 1,5 tsp ginger, grated
* 3 tbsp Potato Starch
* salt & pepper to taste

For the sauce :

* 2 tbsp soy sauce
* 2 tbsp cooking sake
* 2 tbsp mirin
* 2 tbsp water
* 1,5 tsp honey

Directions :

Same easy directions as for the frikkadels.  

Mix together the different ingredients for the meatballs.  Just as in the provided video, the meat mixture remained stickier than what I am used to when preparing meatballs.  I think it might be the consistency of the minced chicken, which feels differently from beef or pork.  I tried using the press and scoop technique as she did, but I found it difficult to produce calibrated meatballs.  They also ended up rather lopsided, but I pretended to the tasting panel that it was the Japanese way of presenting meatballs and nobody was there to contradict me :o)

Fry the meatballs in some oil on medium heat, until nicely browned on both sides.

Add the sauce mixture to the pan, let it thicken slightly and toss the meatballs in the sauce, coating them all over.  Keep a close eye on the sauce because it burns quickly.  You can add them on a skewer and present them like yakitori, or just drop them on a plate.  Either way, they'll be quick to disappear :o)

If you have read this long post until the very end, I thank you for your perseverance and hope you enjoyed this little Meatball World Tour.  See you soon on another Daring Cooks adventure. :o)

Dared to make meatballs. Challenge accepted.


  1. Yum, yum, yum and YUM! Each version I read about here made me say "that one!" - which means I definitely want to try ALL OF THEM! I am so glad that your whole family was able to enjoy this challenge and you really went for it beautifully! Thanks so much cooking along with us this month, and for providing so many delicious and inspiring recipes!

  2. Awesome, you went right round the world for your challenge. I am so impressed. Loved especially the ones form Belgium. The idea of a Brotherhood dedicated to one type of meatball! Actually those sound very close to my recipe for Sauerbraten.

  3. I love your photos!!! And your meatballs look so yummy. Way to go in doing 4 different ones.

  4. Wow! a world tour with meatballs, each one more tempting than the previous. What a delicious post - and now I get to explore your archives. :>)

  5. Que maravilla, cuántas opciones de albóndigas nos dejas, todas se ven exquisitas, gracias por pasarte por mi blog, ojalá puedas hacer las albóndigas que te recuerdan a tu niñez!!!, por cierto, de dónde eres?? tu español es muy bueno!!!.