Hey fam, we’re kicking off this week with meatballs in all their glorious forms you guys. I’ve been wanting to do this post for a while now after a serious meatball incident at an African party. But before I give you the jist, I want to let you know that you’ll be enjoying serious African eats this week guys. I have some amazing recipes coming up. So stay with me or come back at least every other day this week. Promise? Great! 🙂
So I was invited to a party a while ago and eyed some perfectly-plated meatballs about 5 steps away from me. Being a ‘Ntchu mbap’ (translated: meat lover) that I am, I couldn’t wait to dig in. Then it was time to eat. I hurriedly made my way to the table and stood on the line like everyone else, secretly wishing I’ll have my share on what looked so delicious before the hungry-looking guest finished it. Finally, I reached the table, grabbed a plate and forked 2 meatballs, threw one in my mouth and behold, I almost lost a tooth. These meatballs were not only as hard as cement, they tasted like nothing. Just bland, for real! This was an experience I wasn’t ready to forget in a while.
The perfect meatballs
The perfect meatballs are so light and tender a spoon could slide through it without difficulty. Meatballs can be culture specific. Take the Italians for example, their meatballs are cheesy and dripping juice with every bite. In Cameroon, I know meatballs to be extra spicy, savory and full of flavor. Just like ‘mami Boulette’ cooked it back in my secondary school days. Today, I am sharing my secrets to achieving perfectly juicy and tender African-spiced meatballs that pack a ton of flavor. Watch the live Cooking Class I did on my Facebook page to see exactly how it is done and don’t forget to like and share so others can learn too.
Secrets to perfectly juicy meatballs
SECRET #1: THE MEAT
Juiciness and tenderness are two very important factors when it comes to meatball quality and taste. Both factors are influenced by the cut of meat you choose. Most European meatball recipes call for the use of three different types of meat: beef, pork, and veal. In fact, Italians do not make meatballs without veal as veal contains lots of gelatin that accounts for most of the juiciness. I have never used veal before guys. That meat is really, REALLY expensive. For this recipe, I omitted the pork too since the meatballs were meant for a wake-keeping event and not everybody eats pork. However, to make up for these juicy-giving meats, I used beef with a large percentage of fat. This will compensate for veal and pork. The bottom line when it comes to choosing meat for your meatballs is this; the more a muscle is used, the stronger, and therefore tougher, the cut of meat will be. So you want to choose fattier cuts of meat. Why? Because fattier cuts of meat will melt and lubricate the muscle fibers when heated and thus help keep it moist.
SECRET #2: THE PANADE
Whenever you bake, grill or braise meat that need to be thoroughly cooked, you run the risk of losing juiciness and flavor. One simple way to keep ground meat dishes moist and flavorful is to add a Panade. Adding a Panade to most recipes that call for meat can turn a dull and unpalatable dish to one that people will love and crave. What’s a panade you ask? A Panade is simply a mixture of starch like bread, panko or crackers and a liquid like milk, buttermilk, yogurt, stock or water.
Basically, the rule of thumb for making a Panade is this:
1-kilo meat + 2 large egg + 1 cup Panade adjusting up or down depending on the quantity of meat used.
In this recipe, I used bread crumbs from fresh bread, crushed to small grains. It is recommended to soak the bread crumbs in the liquid (I used milk) for some time until bread is completely moist. Then crush further with your finger before adding it in. You can also add in the breadcrumbs with soaking first but make sure you mix well.
SECRET #3: COOKING TIME & METHOD
Please take note of this: the longer meat is cooked, the tougher it becomes. Cooking lean cuts of meat for long is even worse. My tip, make sure to cook your meatballs just until it is tender and then serve. Avoid cooking for too long as this hardens your it and make it unpalatable. Also, how you cook your meatballs matter. Most people, deep-fry which is o.k. I prefer oven-grilling my balls on medium heat on perforated baking trays. This way, my meatballs get that golden brown color and crisp on the outside while retaining moisture on the inside.
So now that we’ve gotten that out-of-the-way, let’s talk about the flavoring for a bit. This is the part that is highly customizable to suit your taste buds. After that bland meatball experience, my advice for you guys is this, whenever you are flavoring meatballs, go with ‘more-is-more’. There’s nothing worse that biting into a completely tasteless meatball. N.O!!! Use your favorite ingredients, lots of them. If you do not feel like using African nutmeg (Ehuru) like I did, leave it out. Just suit yourself.
To make these babies, I started with lots of minced onions, a generous amount of dried garlic (fresh garlic is your best bet). Then I added a ton of flavor with fresh parsley, basil, ginger and more. If you are on a low-carb diet, omit the bread crumbs and slightly increase milk. Let’s get right into the full recipe. Oh, and before I go, leave your feedback in the comments area below if you try this recipe. Also, tag me on Instagram @shape_up_african so I can celebrate you on my feed or tag me on Facebook.
- 1 kilo beef, minced
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tbsp. basil, finely chopped
- 1 tsps. powder garlic
- 1 tsp. white pepper powder
- 1 tsp. ginger, ground
- 1 African nutmeg, ground
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- Cameroon pepper to your taste of hotness
- A handful of parsley, finely chopped
- Beef bouillon cube to taste
- Soak bread crumbs in milk until soft. Crush using a fork.
- Add all ingredients including bread crumbs to beef. Season with salt and beef bouillon cubes.
- Let mixture sit for 10 minutes in the fridge.
- Rub some vegetable on your palms and form small bite-size balls in your palms.
- Place meatballs on a perforated oven tray and oven-grill till golden braun. Do not overcook as this will harden your meat balls.
- Enjoy warm as a snack or make meatball tomato sauce and enjoy with rice, zuchinni noodles or bread.