These spiced meatballs are of Dutch origin. In The Sensible Cook, or Careful Housekeeper, the 1667 Dutch compendium by Pieter van Aengelen, the most popular Dutch cookbook at the time the Dutch began their governorship if Sri Lanka, there are recipes for meatballs that use mace, pepper and nutmeg as seasonings and give an option of adding a few of the outside peels thinly pared of oranges or lemons. In the Groot Fontein Kookboek, a 1973 adaptation into Dutch of a German cookbook, the recipes for fricadellen have dropped the spicing, apart from pepper, and use parsley and marjoram where the Sri Lankan recipe uses dill. No fricadellen in Heleen Halverhout’s 1972 DutchCooking, but a recipe for gehakt, translated as large meat balls, that are spiced with nutmeg and pepper only. The recipe here is from Hilda Duetrom’s Ceylon Daily News Cookery Book, the bible for Sir Lankan Burgher cooks like me.
Frikadells are a traditional part of the great Sri Lankan dish Lumprais, rice with a range of curries and sambols baked in banana leaf. They also make a good hors d’ouevre with a dipping sauce of mint chutney (recipe in these pages) or yoghurt mixed with a little cumin seed.
- 500 g minced beef
- 1 slice bread
- 1 tbsp brown onion or shallot
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 slices ginger
- 1 tsp dill or fennel leaves
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon Grind from a stick or use powdered.
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg Use a whole nutmeg or use powdered.
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 lime
- vegetable oil
- Grate the slice of bread or chop it fine by hand or in a food processor.
- Chop the onions into very small pieces.
- Chop the garlic into very small pieces.
- Chop the ginger into very small pieces.
- Chop the dill or fennel into very small pieces.
- Grind the cinnamon if using a stick.
- Grind the pepper.
- Grate the nutmeg if using a whole one.
- Mix the mince, grated bread, onions, garlic, ginger, dill or fennel, ground spices and a pinch of salt together well.
- Beat one egg. Add this to the mince and mix well.
- Beat the other egg in a shallow bowl,
- Put a cup or two of breadcrumbs onto one of the dinner plates.
- Take small amounts of the mince mix and roll them into balls - about 3 cm across - using your palms.
- When you make each meatball, put it in the beaten egg and roll it gently so it is covered all over with egg. Take it out and roll it in the breadcrumbs so a thin coating of crumbs sticks to the meatball. Put each meatball to rest on the other dinner plate as you make them.
- Heat oil in a wok or a deep saucepan. You want enough oil so you can deep fry the meatballs.
- Test the oil is hot enough by putting a meatball into it. If the meatball sizzles with bubbles appearing around it the oil is hot enough. If it doesn't sizzle lift the meatball out and let the oil keep heating up. Test it again like this till the meatball does sizzle when you put it in.
- Fry the meatballs a few at a time carefully as the oil may spit. I gently slide them down the sides when using a wok, or use a spoon to place them in the oil if using a saucepan. Don't crowd them in as they will put too much moisture into to the oil and slow the cooking..
- Let them fry till they are deep gold-brown.
- Line the third dinner plate with a couple of layers of kitchen paper. You can use a baking tray instead.
- Take the cooked meatballs out of the oil using a slotted spoon or tongs and put them onto the kitchen paper to cool and for surface oil to drain off.
- These meatballs can be eaten as they are or added to a curry sauce.