Now by this time you may be thinking, “Hey, you’ve done a LOT of meatballs!” and you’d be right, I have done quite a few meatball dishes. There is a reason meatballs are well documented in favored dishes. Meatballs were a way to say “I, and my house, have become well enough off that we can spend that extra 2-3 hours taking perfectly good meat, pound it flat, add expensive spices and roll the tasty treat of meat into bite sized balls; all for YOU, our favored guest.” Meat was a luxury in period times due and meat balls even more so. As for me making meatballs, well I had some ground hamburger and a new recipe to try out.
(Aromatic Herbs with Meatballs)
Its recipe is that you cut up fat meat small and boil it in water. Then put dainty meatballs in it and a handful of peeled chickpeas. When it is nearly done, take half as much spinach as the meat and cut it up small with the knife and half boil it. Then throw it on the meat, and adjust its salt and spices. If there remains some water in it, let it go away. Put as much melted fat of fresh tail as it will bear on it, and a scraped stick of Chinese cinnamon, and leave it until it becomes done in the fat and is completely done. Then reduce its fire, and it settles and is taken up.
1 lb stew meat (beef, venison, or lamb) 1 lb of ground meat (beef, venison or lamb)
1 tsp ea. Pepper, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon
(Alternate spices to add would be black anise seeds, hot pepper seeds, garlic, dill, thyme)
¼ tsp saffron 1 onion 1 can garbanzo beans
1 Tbsp sesame oil (olive oil if sesame is not available)
2 cups chopped spinach (de-stemmed unless baby spinach)
Salt to taste 1 tsp thyme, cinnamon, salt
(Rodinson, pp. 348)
I took a 1lb brick of hamburger meat and 1lb of cut up stew meat (that was cut into bite sized pieces). The meat does not specify being all of the same. A combination of meat chunks could have been used as well as a combination of pounded meat. The meat size should be bite sized are even slightly smaller. What is the use of making a really tasty dish if guests aren’t able to enjoy a bite sized piece but have to stop, take the piece of meat from their dish, cut the meat into a more manageable piece then put down the knife and chew? With the meat in bite sized pieces, eating is all one step of select, bite, swallow, then cheer the cook on to more dizzying heights of cooking extravaganzas!
Once the stew meat size has been established, the stew meat was added to a pot with water only 1/2 inch over the meat and boiled till almost done. Modern cooking really doesn’t like boiled meat as the idea that boiling renders the meat flavorless. If spices weren’t added or oil(s) etc then yest the meat would be flavorless; however in period boiling had the added benefit of not only cooking quickly, but cleanly as well. Any sand or nasty bits on the meat went to the scum which was always skimmed off leaving clean well cooked meat in a pot.
I had preselected and measured the spices, cut up the onion, and spinach.
The spices, the little white dish to the side of the garbanzo beans, were added to the ground meat, mixed well and small bite sized meatballs were then formed, except for the last 1tsp of thyme, cinnamon and salt. Those spices will be added to the overall dish at the end.
Once the meatballs had been formed, they were added into the boiling water with the other stew meat. Don’t worry, the meat should not fall apart at the touch of water; however you do want enough water to cover all the meat to get everything well cooked, then I added the garbanzo beans.
When the meatballs have been almost thoroughly cooked, I drained all the excess water out of the pot leaving the meat and the beans. Sesame oil was added to the pot before replacing on the stove. The remaining spices; 1 tsp thyme, cinnamon, salt, were then added as well as the onions and chopped up spinach. The recipe calls for tail fat yet sesame oil was used in substitution. I’ve written before on the extreme muttiness of tail fat and how I’m avoiding that extreme at this time.
This dish smells wonderful…and tastes excellently! This is a colorful tasty warm dish that is fairly healthy in regards to the modern diet. I would suggest serving the dish with either saffron rice or even over a bed of spinach.