Funny thing, culture. You take a handful of mincemeat, shape it into a ball and depending on your perspective it’s a meatball, a hamburger patty or – best of all – a frikkadel. Internationally, frikkadels feature in cuisines wherever the Dutch lived and settled. So while the South African frikkadel is a national treasure, known and loved wherever men mince meat, would you believe it but there’s a Sri Lankan version as well. Ceylon, as it used to be called, was colonised briefly by the Dutch in the early 19th Century. The outcome is a bit of culinary archaeology, revealed to you in this surprising Dutch colonial recipe …
To make frikkadels in coconut milk and coriander for four big Dutchmen, you will need:
• 1kg minced lamb
• 4 teaspoons coriander seeds (dhania)
• 25mm cinnamon bark
• 1 teaspoon allspice
• 4 teaspoons cumin seeds (jeera)
• 4 tablespoons or so white flour
• 3 onions
• 2 cloves garlic
• 25mm finely-chopped fresh root ginger
• 2 cans coconut milk
• 1 sachet Thai red curry paste (50g or so)
• 2 tablespoons brown sugar
• 2 stems of lemongrass (optional but helluva nice)
• Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
• 500g oriental noodles
• A bunch of fresh coriander (dhania) leaves
• Juice of 2 limes.
Sri Lanka loves frikkadels, too
As with all variants on the meatball theme, the secret’s in the mince. Ideally, make this yourself: it’s worth the effort and you control the fat content and hygiene. In a dedicated spice grinder (I use a stand-alone coffee grinder exclusively for this purpose) reduce the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, allspice and cumin to fine powder. Again, doing this yourself ensures finer flavour and aroma from the spices. Select a large mixing bowl and with carefully-washed hands combine the raw mince, the freshly ground spices, the flour and a little salt and pepper.
When mixed satisfactorily, shape into small frikkadels about 25mm in diameter. Next, select a heavy-bottomed stainless-steel frying pan, add sunflower or canola oil to a depth of 1mm or 2mm and sauté the frikkadels until nicely brown. Remove and reserve in a covered bowl.
Check the oil in the pan and swiftly fry the finely-chopped fresh ginger, garlic and onions until the onions are reduced to a golden hash. Pour in the red curry paste, coconut milk, brown sugar, lemon grass and a teaspoon of Thai fish sauce. fish sauce is made from fermented anchovies – which sounds like real hell, but it’s a truly fine condiment and flavour enhancer. Let these ingredients cook for 60 seconds or so, then lower the heat marginally and return the frikkadels to the pan.
Cook for a couple of minutes, until the sauce thickens up. At this point, guess what? Yes, we’ve forgotten the bloody noodles – get these going following the instruction on the packet, drain and serve on each dinner plate. On top of the noodles, add four to six frikkadels, over which you sprinkle some torn fresh dhania leaves, and squeeze a few drops of lime juice. T his meal cries out for cold Pilsener, in tall glasses or straight from the bottle. – David Basckin |fw