Saturday, July 22, 2006

Food as anthropology : Cocktail Meatballs with Chutney

This recipe was one Mum served year after year at "Principal's Cocktails", the annual Christmas event, when my Dad, or the other Principal hosted the staff and their partners for drinks and nibbles. It's always been a great favourite.

It comes from the Glennys Raffles Cookbook "Microwave the New Zealand Way". When we first got a microwave in 1985, this was a best seller. Although it didn't reach the biblical status of the Edmonds Cookbook, it was a classic of its time. It seems to be available only on Trade Me these days.

It's quoted in this link to a paper by Helen Leach of the University of Otago's anthropology department entitled What Do Cookery Books Reveal about the Evolution of New Zealand Pavlovas? . I don't make pavlovas (not my specialty), so I'm not posting any recipes for them! Read the paper for recipe evolution.

Alison Holst has also written in the past about fashions in food - think fondues and quiche in the 70s, Pizza with tinned spaghetti on it in the 70s and 80s, and Italian and sushi in the 90s.

Anyway, the recipe! I've added comments based on my experiments over the years, so blame me and not Glennys if this doesn't work.

Recipe part 1: the Meatballs
500g topside steak mince
1/2 c fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 c milk
1/2 c coconut (the secret ingredient!)
1 small onion finely chopped
1 egg
2 teaspoons Worcester Sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt,
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Mix all ingredients with wet hands, shape the mixture into 1 inch balls. Arrange half the meatballs in a flat dish or roaster, cover with waxed paper, and cook on high (100%) for 2 minutes. Stir to rearrange them, and continue cooking until meatballs are no longer pink inside (1-2 minutes). Then cook the other half!

They also cook fine in an oven - maybe 20 minutes - haven't timed it recently. As a general rule, use your nose. Mum always said, if you can smell something, it's probably cooked. It works for cakes anyway.

Recipe part two: the chutney sauce

1/2 cup tomato chutney or sauce (either works well)
1/3 cup plum (or other jam)
2 Tablespoons orange (or other fruit juice)
2 teaspoons mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

My general rule: trust your tastebuds! Varying the ingredients a little for the sauce won't be fatal - go on, experiment!

Cook gently on the stove or microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir in meatballs, and continue cooking until meatballs are hot.

This freezes really well (we'd do huge batches for the cocktails).

It's also quite yummy with pasta, although you might want to tone down the sauce a bit (or maybe not!).

You could saute some finely chopped celery and onion and grated carrot. When they are softened add chopped tomatoes or tomato puree. Simmer that a bit, then add the chutney sauce ingredients. Adjust to taste. Eat with pasta - yum!

There's also a chilli cheese sauce, based on cheese, sherry and chilli sauce, but I've never made it. It looks a bit rich for my taste.

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