I have made and eaten a lot of meatballs by now. You see, I wrote a book with over 100 meatball recipes, and that requires eating hundreds of meatballs. I have many favorites, and sometimes they change, but these Picnic Favorite Spiced Frikadelles from South Africa are always in the top 10. Why are they called that, because they are loaded with fragrant spices and because of the nice crust, seem to be the type of food which would travel well. Bring them for picnics, lunches or healthy snacks. No sauces necessary.
I do think that these are one of my favorite meatballs my entire Global Meatballs book. They have an ideal texture, first we encounter a distinct crispy crust fragrant with spices. These spices foretel even more spices inside. The interior is tender with a perfect ratio of breadcrumbs to meat. A mixture of ground beef and pork is used. I like a 2:1 beef:pork ratio, for texture, flavor and fat. Similar to a meatloaf and stuffing but mostly they are unique.
In writing the book we wanted a representative group of meatball from around the globe. I ended up with recipes from over 40 countries and cultures. In doing the research some were easier to nail down than others. Denmark's national dish is a sort of meatball sandwich (Frikadeller Smorrebrod), lamb meatballs from Greece or Sweedish Meatballs are all well known emblematic dishes of their countries.
Some parts of the world have huge traditions of meatballs, where it is impossible to pick an iconic one of the many. This may be due to the tradition and popularity of the meatball as a foodstuff, but I note this tends to happen in to areas of the world where diverse cultures have coexisted (often not so peacefully) for years.
This overlay of cultures and usually results in cooks borrowing the best things from different traditions, food fusions and blurry lines. Regions like the Middle East, the Americas, and South Africa have rich traditions of meatballs with blurry lines of where they "came from" resulting in some of the most innovative and modern recipes.
South Africa has an fascinating history, local tribes, tribes from further lands, spice traders, displaced people from India and East Africa, the Dutch and English colonists, and more, making up the people of this southern cape. Imagine all the different types of food they liked to eat. But I swear, all of them probably had some type of meatball tradition.
In my research I found that the people of South Africa have as many favorite meatball recipes as there are cooks. I find this Spiced Frikkadel recipe emblematic of the Rainbow Nation, the taste, ingredients and and how it is made is made, is from everywhere and nowhere in particular. Could we go so far to call it a democratic meatball? There are European, African and and Indian elements in this one delicious food.
You will find they are flexible at the table, I like them served alongside a big green salad. Or a rice pilaf, cous cous, potatoes, or a pile of cooked vegetables would support them well. Use leftovers in a sandwich the next day. They are equally good eaten hot or at room temperature.
Holler back if you try them and tell me what you love about them! I would like that.
Favorite Spiced Frikkadels
22 large meatballs, 5 servings
- 1 cup (115g) unseasoned bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup (115g) plain yogurt
- 1.5 (680g) ground beef and pork
- 1 egg
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 yellow onion, minced
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1.5 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup chickpea flour
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2+ tablespoons safflower or canola oil
Combine the breadcrumbs and yogurt in a bowl. Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes. Add the meat, egg, garlic, onion, cilantro, coriander, chili powder, salt and pepper to the bread crumbs. Using your hands incorporate all together. Add the meat and incorporate into the bread mixture.
In a shallow dish, mix together the chickpea flour, turmeric, paprika, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350° (180°C) Line a baking tray with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Heat a frying pan on medium high with the safflower oil.
Wet hands will keep the meat from sticking. Form 2.5 inch (6 cm) balls in by rolling them in between your hands. Roll each in the chickpea flour, covering the surface. Place in the hot frying pan and cook the balls in batches. Shake the pan a few times, to brown the surface all over. Cook for 5 - 7 minutes, remove to the prepared baking tray. Repeat with remaining meatballs.
Finish cooking the meatballs in the 350° oven, 10 -14 minutes should cook them through. A meat thermometer should read 160° for well done meat. (The jury is still out about pork, the FDA recommends cooking ground pork to 160°, a lot of people say 145°. I cook mine to 145°. You can Google it and make your choice.)