Thursday, January 18, 2007

Copycat: Dagmar's spicy meatballs

I told you there's another copycat post on the way when writing about Alanna's wonderfully fragrant carrots with African spices. Well, Dagmar posted a recipe for spicy chicken meatballs in early January that caught my eye. It must have been the use of sumac in the meat mixture (apart from the tempting photo, that is). I've had a packet of sumac for the best part of the last year, and apart from sprinkling it on top of rice every now and then I haven't really used it. Now was my chance!

Sumac, for those of you who don't know, is the dried and crushed fruit of the sumac tree (Rhus coriaria L.) that grows wild in Sicily, Western Asia, and parts of Arabia and Central Asia. The dried fruit have a beautiful dark red colour, and taste slightly sweet and sour. Sumac is widely used in Turkish and Iranian cuisine, where it is used to season rice, meat dishes, döner kebabs, and salads. It's always added at the end of cooking process, as heating sumac dulls the flavour. In addition to being used as a seasoning, the red sumac flakes also make a beautiful garnish. It's also an essential ingredient in the za'tar spice mixture popular in Jordan. Think of it as dried lemon juice - you add just a generous squeeze (sorry, a sprinkle) to enliven the dish.

You can read more about sumac here (Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages).

Anyway - back to Dagmar's spicy meatballs. I've added some breadcrumbs to the mixture, as there's a man with a very big appetite in the house and this makes the meatballs go further without really compromising the taste. I've also enlarged the quantities a little to suit the local shopping habits (minced meat is sold in 500 gram packets). Dagmar used chicken mince, but as poultry mince is not really available here and chicken fillets are expensive (for mincing purposes), I used the more economical minced lean beef (first time) and minced beef & pork (when K. requested these again few days later). The recipe worked really well both times. The mixture of spices is wonderful - the warmth of coriander and cumin, the kick of Cayenne and the sharpness of sumac complement each other brilliantly.

When I made Estonian cabbage rolls the other day (seasonings: salt, pepper, a bit of dill), K. asked if I could spice them up a' la these meatballs:) Do try them, they're good!

Dagmar's spicy meatballs, my way
(Vürtsikad hakklihapallid)
Serves 4

500 grams mince (lean steak mince or a mixture of pork & beef)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 egg
5 Tbsp dried breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tsp dried ground sumac
1 tsp cumin seeds, finely crushed
1 tsp coriander seeds, finely crushed
1 tsp ground Cayenne pepper
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

oil for frying

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Shape into 12 large 'sausages' or smaller patties (best done with slightly wet or oily hands to avoid sticking).
Shallow-fry in oil for 10 minutes, turning, until the meatballs are browned all over.
Serve with rice and feta-cucumber 'salad' (above) or with Alanna's wonderful carrots (below).


Anonymous said...

In Romania we replace the breadcrumbs with white bread soaked in milk or water and then well squeezed. It makes the meatballs softer, especially if you are using very lean mince.

Anonymous said...

sumac is also used in lebanese cooking, for example in the salad taabouleh:)

Anonymous said...

These look delicious Pille. Where do I find sumac in Tartu, or Tallinn?

Kalyn Denny said...

They sound very interesting. I've purchased sumac from Penzeys, but never had much idea what to do with it.

Anonymous said...

Mmm, looks very much like the dinner we had today :-) I've never heard of sumac though.....

Maggie said...

I also have been wondering just what recipe to use with the sumac I bought sometime ago - many thanks for the inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this Pille! I was just on the phone yesterday with the purveyor of a local spice store I go to and she was telling me that they had sumac :) I am saving this recipe! Sounds delicious!

Anonymous said...

Hi Pille,
I'm glad that you liked the recipe. The photos look very tempting! I'm sure that it tastes lovely no matter which meat you use. I have to admit that I also added breadcrumbs the second time I made these but actually I used other "spices": parmesan and dijon which leads to completely different meatballs :-) But my point was that it was a good idea to include breadcrumbs.

Anonymous said...

Ma siis proovisin kah eile porgandeid ja lihapalle (ma ise nimetasin neid kotlettideks:), tegin ilma saiata, tulid ikkagi väga head ja keetsin kartuleid juurde, mis maitsesid porgandileemega nii hästi. Mmmmm! Copycat Liis:)

Pille said...

Roxy - we do that in Estonia here, too:) But I hardly buy white bread (dark rye bread is much more popular in our household), and I've got a bag of breadcrumbs, so I just used what I had available:)

Guro - thanks for the tip! I've made tabouleh before, but I guess I used lemon juice for acidity.

Pene - I'd try Piprapood - I'm sure you know the address:) I brought mine back from the UK.

Kalyn - now you do!

Britt-Arnhild - which spices did you use?

Margaret - you're welcome.

Joey - that's wonderful! Now you've just got to find a purveyor that _always_ has fresh and affordable chantarelles:)

Dagmar - the recipe was a great success, thanks for sharing it!

Liis - tore kuulda! Kuna nüüd on Sul ka väike pakike sumahhi, siis saad neid varsti jälle valmistada:) Ja Cayenne'i asemel võid kasutada tavalist tšillipipart. Mõõdukalt, muidugi:)

Anonymous said...

In Albania, we add also the bread soaked in milk or water, and also crumbled feta cheese and fresh Parsley.

Both ways, they are really yummy!

Anonymous said...

Can you have conversion measurements from metric into English measurements as I live in US?
Thank you for your consideration,