Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, February 19, 2004


Page 15



‘Kjøttboller,’ ‘Keftethes,’ ‘Cevapcici,’ ‘Pumpe’: All Are Names for Meatballs




Meatballs are a dish that’s been served a good long time, across the globe.

Tannahill, “Food in History” (1973), provides a medieval recipe for pumpe—meatballs in a sauce. The recipe starts with boiling pork, then chopping it into bits.

Meatballs, nowadays in the United States, are often associated with Italy. (Italian meatballs were discussed here last week.) But persons of numerous ethnicities have memories of the meatballs prepared by their mothers.

Typically, raw meat—ground or minced—is mixed with raw egg, spices, a filler (such as bread or breadcrumbs), and perhaps milk or cream; the mixture is formed into balls and heated. The major difference is generally in the spices, with Hungarian meatballs, for example, containing paprika.

Egyptian meatballs, “kofta,” are fashioned from minced beef or lamb. Typical spices are finely chopped coriander leaves and mint leaves. The meatballs, which are fried, are often served with a curry.

Beef, lamb or pork can be used for Greek meatballs (“keftethes”), derived from kofta. Chopped fresh mint and chopped fresh parsley are commonly added. Some recipes call for use of ouzo (unsweetened Greek liqueur) or red wine. The balls are deep fried. A dipping sauce made from yogurt is frequently used.

In Poland, meatballs (“klopsiki”) are made with ground beef, pork, or veal, or a comination of the meats. They are browned in hot lard, then baked, and sometimes served in sour cream.

Armenians prepare a meatball within a meatball. These stuffed meatballs are called “karpet porov kufta.” A lamb meatball is encased in a layer of ground lamb mixed with finely fine bulgur (cracked wheat). The balls are boiled in lamb broth.

Sacramento columnist David Kline advised in an e-mail: “[I]f you’ve never tried the Croatian version of meatballs, you should do so. The delicacy called cevapcici (cha-VOP-cha-chee) is a combination of beef, pork and spices formed into a sausage shape and grilled. It’s somewhere in between a hamburger and a meatball, and it tastes great when topped with minced red onions and served with a side of pasta or potato salad.”

Scandinavian meatballs, typically served in brown gravy, rival Italian meatballs in popularity. Of the three Scandinavian nations, Sweden is most readily associated with meatballs.

Swedish meatballs—or “köettbullar”— contain ground beef and pork, sometimes veal. Raw egg, breadcrumbs, half-and-half, melted butter, and nutmeg are added. Minced onion and parsley are frequently included. Some recipes instruct that the mixture be refrigerated a couple of hours or so before the balls are formed. Swedish meatballs are generally fried.

I ordered meatballs once during a short visit to Sweden. The person taking the order evinced utter distain, clearly resenting the stereotypical concept of meatballs as the centerpiece of Swedish cuisine.

Danish meatballs, or “frikadeller,” traditionally start with minced pork and veal, mixed with raw egg, spice, onion, milk and filler.

Tufford’s “Original Scandinavian Recipes” (1976) calls for grinding a pound of beef with a fourth pound of salt pork and an onion, combining this with a slice of dry bread soaked in milk, four beaten eggs, and salt and pepper, forming the mixture into balls, and coating them with breadcrumbs that are swimming in beaten egg and milk. The balls are fried in butter.

Other Danish recipes prescribe boiling the meatballs.

Norwegian meatballs (“kjøttboller”) are, of course, the best meatballs on earth. As an American of Norwegian heritage (on my mother’s side), I’m obliged to say that.

Actually, Norwegian meatballs are not much different from Swedish meatballs, except that they are apt to include ginger, perhaps mashed potatoes as a filler, maybe heavy cream.

And, there are Chinese meatballs.

Meatballs serve as a filling for dim sum. Minced beef can be seasoned with small pieces of water chestnut and tangerine peel, formed into a ball, wrapped in a fried bean curd sheet, then steamed. Minced pork and small mushroom chunks can be used. Varieties are numerous.

Ground pork can be used as a filling for wonton, mixed with such seasonings as finely chopped ginger. The wrappers are made from flour, water, egg and corn starch. Wonton are deep fried or are boiled and added to stock.

JiaoZi are made from ground pork or beef, mixed with finely minced cabbage and ginger, and stuck in balls of dough, which are boiled.

Ground pork, mixed with chopped cabbage and minced ginger, are fillers for gyoza, a Japanese dish that originated in China. Round wrappers are used. The oblong dumplings are pan-fried (“potstickers”) or deep-fried or boiled.


Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company


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