On Tuesdays or Thursdays my mother would make frikkadels for supper. Yum! With mash, with lots of butter and white pepper — remember that original one, was it Robertsons? Black pepper we only discovered when we moved to the city, and even then only in my late teens.
Those were the days when “Steak & Chops” was still a spice in high rotation in our childhood kitchens. So strange to think that I have never bought it for my own kitchen and rather have sumac in high rotation and am always on the look out for non- irradiated on the spice bottle.
How times change, but rarely does the core of comfort food change. I must say since my first love of a nephew was born and out of his toddler phase, I have not actually made frikkadels much. Though his Nissi (his name for his granny) really wanted to make the perfect-sized frikkadels just for him, so we were more involved in plating rather than cooking those.
There is still something so special about making a twist on these dishes we grew up with and have introduced to all the littles in our family. The best part is how simple these things are. I am always a fan of a quick meal, especially in the week. Very few of us have time for long, slow-cooked items and load-shedding also makes this an every increasing Olympic sport of racing against the clock to lights out.
As I sit in my office and the weather outside grows ever inclement, I am definitely thinking about something that soothes for dinner and mash needs to feature. While I generally prefer my potatoes fried or roasted, mash has a special place. Again, I’m almost skaam to say that milk has been replaced by almond milk, but butter still trends, as does white pepper, the OG kind mentioned above, the one I grew up with that sat right next to the Cerebos salt.
What do I serve it with? Well, my new take on the frikkadel. A chicken version of the meatballs I grew up with. Chicken mince again, a more recent discovery in my meat landscape over the past few years. I still find that it’s not that easily available in most butcheries, but our local butcher that makes my friend Nadya and my older sister blush, keeps it stocked and frozen.
I’m not a huge fan of red meat, I eat it only when I crave it, but mince really has a special place in my heart and stomach. It’s not as overwhelming as a piece of steak or a lamb chop can be (I can hear my older sister howling in horror at this statement). Chicken is so quick and easy midweek, but grilling breasts or roasting a whole chicken can be such a thing, so making chicken frikkadels, or frikkis as we call them at home, was a real step.
I made them in 2022 for the first time, just as an experiment, in a simple cumin-y tomato sauce. Warm and fragrant, but not your Italian-type tomato sauce. My usual dining guest was over, you know Mr Eating is an inconvenience and gets in the way of my working and he “reluctantly” sampled my experiment. The number of appreciative grunts this dish elicited was truly surprising, he usually errs on the side of blasé. Seconds were had and I always know he’s enjoyed something when he asks me what I put in the dish. I sent him home with a skaftin and received a message the next day at lunchtime, showing me an empty container with the caption, “You and your sorceries.” I assume the leftovers were good.
As with everything, it gets so hard to replicate because I made up the recipe the first time. The second time something was missing, but the one thing is these meatballs are never dry. I prep them in the morning before work and then get to rest for the day, then you fry them and then make the sauce in the same pan afterwards. Building on flavour is one thing, but one- pan dishes are an even better reason.
Try this dish with mash, I’ve done it with pasta as well. Perhaps you too may discover the sorcery in this sauce.
- 500g chicken mince
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs (I used sourdough that I made and keep in my freezer)
- 2 cloves of garlic grated
- ½ red onion grated
- 1 egg
- Handful chopped Italian parsley
- 1 small sprig rosemary — chopped
- 1 leaf on fresh sage finely chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- Pinch of white pepper
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons of Cumin
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric
- A pinch of ginger powder
- ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 carrot finely chopped
- 1 stalk of celery finely chopped
- ½ onion finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves crushed
- 4 whole Roma tomatoes or 1 can tin tomatoes
- 1 red chilli chopped (more or less chilli according to taste and heat preference)
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- Put all the meatball ingredients in a glass mixing bowl and mix gently until well combined.
- Place in a big dish, dusted with flour, and begin to roll meatballs just slightly bigger than a R5 coin.
- Set aside and let them rest for minimum 30 minutes
- When done, fry the meatballs on medium heat until brown on all sides in a little bit of butter. Then set them aside.
- In the same pan, place olive oil, then throw in the onion and stir until a little translucent.
- Then put in the carrots and celery and stir until they heat up with the onions.
- Next, throw in the spices, except cinnamon, and combine with the veggies and oil.
- Then add in a splash of apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pan, followed by the chopped tomatoes.
- Now put in the cinnamon and a hint of sugar if you feel the tomatoes are too tart.
- Stir, combine until it comes to a rolling boil, add one cup of warm water, salt and pepper, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pot.
- Ideally leave for about 1.5 hours, but one will suffice.
- About 45 minutes into the cooking, place the browned meatballs into the sauce and let them simmer in the sauce until serving.
To serve, make pasta or mash, though these meatballs are enjoyed even picking them cold from the pot.