Meatballs with Mushroom Sauce and a Cucumber Salad
This recipe, in Polish called Kotleciki mielone z sosem grzybowym i mizerią, was one of the first recipes I asked my Mama to write down for me when I was leaving for university. Polish meatballs were a dish she would very often make for supper, served with mashed potatoes and grated beetroot or with a cucumber and sour cream salad on the side. Traditionally, Polish meatballs are coated in breadcrumbs or flour, but I leave mine as they are to lighten them up a little. This is a wonderfully comforting, family dish.
For the meatballs:
125ml/ 1/2 cup beef stock
2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for frying
1 red onion, finely chopped
400g/14oz minced beef
400g/14oz minced pork
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp dried parsley
2 slices bread, preferably sourdough rye, soaked in water
Freshly ground black pepper
For the mushroom sauce:
1 tsp butter
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
250g / 2 1/2 cups white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
½ lemon, juiced
½ vegetable or chicken stock cube
250ml/ 1 cup single or light cream
For the Mizeria cucumber salad:
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp sea salt
125ml/ 1/2 cup sour cream
Small bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
For the beetroot salad:
4 large cooked beets, grated
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lemon, juiced or 1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp light olive oil
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
Pinch of sugar, optional
For the meatballs, firstly, make up the beef stock cube with hot water and leave to cool. Fry the red onion in a splash of oil for 5 minutes until softened. Leave to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the mince, egg, mustard and parsley. Pour in the cooled beef stock and tip in the onions. Tear or crumble the soaked bread into small pieces, add to the meat. Season the mixture with pepper and combine everything thoroughly with a clean fork.
Keep a separate, smaller bowl of cold water by your side to wet your hands. Take small amounts of the mixture, roughly a tablespoonful, and shape into small balls – about the size of golf balls. Flatten slightly and arrange on a board. Between making each meatball, dip your hands in the cold water, to prevent stickiness. You should have enough mixture for 12 meatballs.
Heat a wide-based frying pan (preferably non-stick) with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. In batches, fry the meatballs for 4 minutes, until golden all over. Remove onto a clean plate and continue with the rest.
Once they are browned, put the meatballs back into the pan, add 2 tablespoons cold water, shake the pan around a little, cover with a tight-fitting lid or foil, and simmer on a low heat to cook for 10 minutes.
For the mushroom sauce, in a separate frying pan, cook the onion in the butter for 5 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms, squeeze over the lemon juice and cook for a further 5 minutes. Crumble in the stock cube, add half a cup of water and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cream and stir well. Set to one side or pour over the meatballs in the pan to keep warm.
For the cucumber salad, place the cucumber into a sieve or colander and sprinkle over the salt. Leave it to drain for 20 minutes – the salt will bring out lots of water and the cucumber will turn slightly darker in colour. Drain well, using clean hands to squeeze out any excess water and transfer the cucumber slices to a clean bowl. Stir through the sour cream and the fresh dill.
For the beetroot salad, mix the grated beetroot with the red onion, salt, and pepper. Add the lemon juice or vinegar, olive oil, and dill and mix well. Taste the salad and, if you like, sweeten it slightly with a pinch of sugar. Serve straight away with the meatballs, sauce and cucumber salad.
Recipes extracted from Wild Honey and Rye: Modern Polish Recipes by Ren Behan, published by Pavilion Books, with permission. Recipe image credit: Yuki Sugiura.
Recipe by Ren Behan - Author Wild Honey and Rye at http://www.renbehan.com/2018/02/polish-meatballs-polish-recipes.html