Thursday, 7 February 2013

Albondigas en salsa de tomato - Spanish meatballs

Probably the most beautiful thing The Gentleman has ever uttered to yours truly is his comment on one of my visits to Sweden, his residence at the time. He told me that when I'm around, the house he lived in "smelled of home". Awwwwww.

And what's more homely that meatballs. Or albondigas, as they're called in Spain. Its name echoes the Arabic influence still prominent in Andalusia today- it comes from the Arabic word al bunduq. The word means hazelnut which I would imagine refers to shape of these meaty nuggets.

Albondigas is one of the most common tapas dishes and just like with meatballs everywhere, there are as many recipes as there are cucinas. This is mine. This recipe changes from day to day, based on my mood and the ingredients available. Today they were like this. 

I like to soften the onions in oil before adding it to the mince, but each to their own. Some like the chewiness of raw onions in the meatballs. After the onion is done, I fry the spices in the oil too, to wake them up a bit. Some don't.

You can use any mince you like: pork, beef or even chicken. Or their blend. In our kitchen the mince is usually beef.

Many recipes use an egg, but I don't - I prefer the softness in the texture. I also don't fry them first, but cook them in the sauce as they soak up some of the flavours while and remain juicy. Some people roll their meatballs in flour before adding them to the sauce as it helps thicken the sauce. Feel free to do entirely as you want. 

Some use milk for soaking the bread, I use diluted tomato sauce or, like today, stock. SO again: each to their own!

Andalusia and especially Jerez, is known for its sherry, which some recipes use to add a bit of oomph to the sauce (and occasionally even to the meatballs). We have never learnt to drink sherry, so we never haev any spare bottles lying around the cupboards. So, I normally substitute it with dry white wine- seeing how we never have any shortage of that.

Any self-respecting chef obviously makes his/her own tomato sauce from the scratch by roasting the tomatos and onions and then liquidizing them and reducing the sauce to a desired consistency but the canned stuff available these days is just so good that I don't even feel bad for taking the shortcut.

For serving as tapas I usually make the balls bigger, in which case this recipes yields about 15 meatballs. The standard size ones you get about 24.

5 tapas portions

400 gr mince
2 slices of white bread 
(I used toast with the crusts cut off)
0.6 l stock
400 gr tinned tomatos 
(I use fritura, which is the pureed variety)
1 smallish onion, finely chopped
2 tsp pimientoa (any paprika works)
1 tsp cinnamon
2 small or 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped 
 (if you use the powdered kind, 1 heaped tsp)
1 small chili finely chopped
a couple of dashes of white wine
salt, pepper to taste
1 heaped tsp chopped coriander leaves
1 handful chopped parsley

Soak the bread in appr. 0.5 dl of stock. In the meanwhile heat some oil in a pan. Sautée the onion until soft and transluscent. Then add half of the pimiento powder, chili, half of cinnamon and garlic. Add a dash of white wine and mix it together in a hot pan. Add into the bread- mixture. Add the mince, coriander and half of parsley. Season with salt and pepper and work it all together.

Let sit in the fridge for half and hour allowing the tastes come together. Roll into even-sized balls. 

Heat the oil in which you fried the onions and spices. Add another dash of white wine to get all the taste from the pan, then add the remaining pimiento and cinnamon. Pour in the tomatosauce and the rest of the stock. If needed, reduce over high heat.

Drop the balls into the sauce. Be gentle and avoid breaking them. Let simmer in the pan, covered, for about 10-15 minutes. No need to fret, since the balls are cooking in the liquid, they're not going to dry even if you forget them for a moment as you're sipping some of that wine. 

In the end sprinkle the remaining parsley on top and enjoy. With that remaining wine, perhaps...

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