Yesterday I prepared my morning latte and settled myself down in front of the computer to read my subscribed blog feed. I like to check in on many of my favourite blogs and comment; it’s a great way to gain inspiration or jog a food memory. Nothing really stood out until I scrolled the page and a post by my friend Seana at Cottage Grove House caught my eye and brought me back to my childhood.
Sweet and Sour Meatballs. I don’t know how many versions I’ve eaten with my family or how many times they’ve graced our table. During my childhood I’m sure they were on a weekly rotation. In fact the distinct memory that popped into my head was of my poor dad eating yet another meal of sweet and sour meatballs. He would politely grin and bear it, but he was really sick of them after my sister became obsessed with them. After I entered high school she began to learn to cook meals for the family; sweet and sour meatballs being the obvious favourite. He never said anything back then but if you mention sweet and sour meatballs now he gets a little bit of a shivery panic attack.
Our original family favourite meatballs were made of our own beef, ground into mince in my Grandpa’s basement and the sauce was a basic sweet and sour with added ketchup. No extra onions or peppers and most of the time no pineapple. I started out making this plain version for my young family but eventually I improved the recipe to our liking. My current version is made from chicken or turkey and includes shredded onions and carrots in the meatballs. The sauce usually has pineapple chunks and a good amount of ginger and chili flakes because we like it a little spicy.
So I was a little apprehensive about trying this recipe, originally blogged by Amanda of What’s Cooking – Fine Dining My Way. I didn’t think it could be much better than the Sweet and Sour Meatballs I already made but Seana had piqued my interest and really sold the dish to me! So, when I got to the grocery store and found pineapples and minced chicken on sale I knew we were having Amanda’s Sweet and Sour Meatballs for dinner.
I didn’t read the recipe right through, other than to see that it contained a pineapple and what I thought was chicken mince (turns out it was turkey). I didn’t have any tomato paste in the pantry so one substitution I made was to use a half pint of my homemade tomato passata. I don’t just use it for any recipe because it is like gold in my kitchen. The recipe must be passata worthy and this one was. Another substitution was plain old breadcrumbs. I just don’t have matzo meal kicking around in my pantry. Oh, and I omitted the coriander seeds but then wished I hadn’t.
1 pineapple; cut into chunks
2 cups tomato passata
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 onion; finely diced
2 garlic cloves; minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 pound minced chicken (Amanda uses turkey)
4 tbsp bread crumbs, panko, or matzo meal
1 tsp smoky paprika
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp ground coriander seeds (I omitted these)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
pinch cayenne or flaked chilies
In a large pot or dutch oven (preferably with a wide base) place the tomato passata, brown sugar, cider vinegar, and first amount of salt. Heat on low while you make the meatballs. To a large bowl add the chicken mince, finely diced onion, minced garlic, second amount of salt, egg, bread crumbs, paprika, and pepper. Mix well with a spoon and shape into 1 inch meatballs. Drop each into the waiting warmed sauce. When you’ve made all the meatballs, cover and simmer on low heat for 40 minutes. Add pineapple and simmer for about five more minutes so the pineapple softens a bit. Serve over rice and top with cilantro leaves.
Note: The original recipe calls for coriander seed to be added to the meatballs. I didn’t add them and I would be a bit worried they would be much too crunchy and overpowering. I do think they would add another nice flavour so next time I plan on grinding some and adding them to the sauce. DO NOT omit the paprika! It may sound like an odd seasoning to add to Sweet and Sour Meatballs but wow, did it add a certain depth of flavour! Paprika will definitely be an addition to my Sweet and Sour Meatballs from now on.