When I was young, I did not have a great deal of enthusiasm for meatballs, unlike my father who would wax lyrical about Königsberger Klopse from time to time. I think my lack of enthusiasm sprang from early childhood memories of my father coming home from work to have a family Friday lunch (usually) of fish and chips and so with such expectations, a plate of klopse with boiled potatoes just did not give the same level of satisfaction. Come to that, how close my mother’s klopse would have been to my father’s mother’s efforts I have no idea. By all accounts, that grandmother was something of a star hostess and from the Baltic itself, so while not being East Prussian herself would have been well aware of the dish. To be fair to my mother, who was/is a good cook, in the BC era (before computers/internet) in the latter 1950s she must have taken the recipe from my non-cooking father. I fancy that East Prussian cookbooks were not best sellers at the time.
Roll on a few decades and in the course of my travels came the revelation that there was a thing of delight called köfte and thus a new relationship grew between me and the not so humble meatball. This new love affair was further enhanced about a year ago when a culinary heroine of mine, Rachel Roddy wrote; A Roman knows: a recipe for perfect meatballs in the Grauniad and introduced the concept of poaching the meatballs in sauce as a method as opposed to frying and baking. I was intrigued and discovered that the Polpette,Italian for meatball, after a time chilling in the fridge, prior to poaching, keeps its structural integrity very well, it also takes on the sauce flavours and importantly DOES NOT BREAK UP. No, I am not shouting, but it is greatly frustrating to have a carefully crafted meatball/köfte in whatever shape misbehave at the point of cooking. On the BBQ can be most annoying and heartbreaking to see ones efforts sink for ever in fiery embers as if in Bosch allegory painting of the damned. OK, that is a rite of passage. We all go through this agony and hopefully become better people afterwards. The poaching-freezing option seems to free up the imagination and in the meatball composition allow for more freedom in ingredients as one has no worry of the finished product becoming brittle. Thus one can explore texture a bit more. Food excites for many reasons and we can for very healthy reasons, explore the other parts of our receptors to complete the whole process of enjoyment.
So! To the recipe! Do feel free to play with ingredients, herbs and spices, I lay before you a canvas that in the meatballs or in the sauce there is an almost infinite permutations to make according to one’s taste. This one almost forgotten experience has become almost a staple, though with variations and the meatball concept, though very basic has from the Four Joy Meatballs (Sì xǐ wánzi), of the Chinese Qin Dynasty (200+ BCE and I don’t believe that was the first ever meatball ever made), to now, proved a dish that has variants all over the world. And… you are not obliged to eat them with boiled potatoes if you don’t want to!
6 chicken breasts = 16 meatballs (approx.) Multiply/divide at leisure.
1 large onion
Lebanese 7 spice powder
Generous handful of fresh basil
Ditto of pine nuts
Splash of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1.2 ltr. - 3 tins of tomatoes (2 chopped and 1 ‘Datterini’ Mutti Brand) but other combinations possible.
3 shallots or small onion
I stem of celery
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 generous tsp of Chilli salsa (as previously published)
Dash Lee & Perrins’ Worcestershire Sauce (original)
1 tsp coriander powder
(1 cup or ½ cup tomato paste with water optional – depends on how saucy is the liquid)
(Caesar Green Apple Juice/ KDD Tomato Juice optional for keeping the mix moist)
Whizz the chicken breasts with all other ingredients in a food processor (or old-fashioned mincer) – chicken mince is just too liquid for the task – to a semi-solid, but not liquid consistency!
Rest in fridge for 2 hrs.
For the sauce, heat oil and fry allium (onion/shallot or same family) and celery and garlic, fry them until onions are limp and then add mushrooms if using them. When the mushrooms are looking to be coated with oil and darkening – or the onion is caramelising, add the tinned tomatoes and seasonings. Stir vigorously until the whole is brought to the boil, then lower the heat and cook, just above simmer for ½ hour to forty minutes. The idea being you are making a liquid salsa, but not a drinking soup. If the mixture needs loosening, add some apple juice (Caesar’s Green Apple Juice), as we will need to poach the meatballs for around ½ hr on medium heat so they cook through.
Serve. The result should be a solid, though not tough meatball with some nutty texture. Those who are allergic to nuts are not obliged to use them and can substitute breadcrumbs or powdered dried mushrooms even, the possibilities are endless.
So you can be sure of klopse… I’m not hiding them…
Ingredients for 4 servings:
500g minced veal - try to get some fat added if getting the meat minced at the butcher.
80g stale bread (roll or loaf), soaked in 1 cup (250 ml) milk
1 large onion, very finely chopped, plus an extra half onion chopped for the stock
1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
750ml (3 cups) beef stock
1 carrot, chopped
1 fresh bay leaf
chopped parsley for garnish
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp lemon juice
125 ml (½ cup) thickened cream
1 egg yolk
For the meatballs, combined the soaked bread, after squeezing excess moisture, minced veal, onion, eggs, anchovy, salt and pepper. This does not have to be done in a processor as above as we have ready minced meat.
Pour the stock into a large saucepan and add extra chopped onion, carrot and bay leaf, and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Form the veal mixture into golf-ball sized meatballs, then place into a hot broth and simmer gently for 10 minutes, but do not boil. Remove from heat and let meatballs rest in broth for another 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the broth and keep warm in a covered bowl while the sauce is prepared. Strain the stock and keep 350 ml for the cream sauce and freeze the rest for another use; waste not, want not.
For the sauce, melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan and then add the flour and whisk. Add the remaining 350 ml beef stock and capers, lemon juice, cream and egg yolk. Season to taste, adjust the heat to medium-low and continue stirring until the sauce thickens. Do not let the result boil, just keep steady heat here because of the egg.
Pour the sauce over the klopse. Sprinkle with parsley and any remaining capers, and serve with boiled potatoes if you want! J