(The meatballs of the Jews)
This recipe starts with lean meat. The meat is not described as being kosher. Kosher is (per Wikipidea) “…in regard to land beasts (Hebrew:Behemoth), Deuteronomy and Leviticus both state that anything which chews the cud and has a cloven hoof would be ritually clean, but those animals which only chew the cud or only have cloven hooves would be unclean. The texts identify four animals in particular as being unclean for this reason – the hare, hyrax, camel, and pig — although the camel both ruminates and has two toes, while the hare and hyrax are coprophages rather than ruminants; the latter issues have been discussed by many, including the recent book on the subject by Rabbi Natan Slifkin.”
This clears up a little on the Kosher part (not knowing this prior to the redaction of this recipe), which means that rabbit, camel, hyrax, and pig would not be acceptable meats for this dish if this were to be served to a person following strict Kosher foods.
When this recipe was written, the writer did not say that the meat was halal. Now Halal meat is meat that is acceptable for eating under Islamic law. The assumption is that the meat would have been bought in the market (or slaughtered on the farm) according to Quranic verse.
So this recipe if a redaction is for an Islamic eater can include that of hare or camel but not pork, or meat of a predator (so for those living in Texas also known as Ansteorra…no coyote). The meat must not be carrion (always a sound advice for what not to eat) or that has been killed by strangulation, gored, beaten, killed by a fall, or killed in name of another other then Allah.
So on to a recipe given to us by an Islamic scripe who had dinner with a Jewish host and thought highly of the meatballs!
Boil lean meat after pounding it fine. Then take it out and pound it again, and remove the tendons. Then pound pistachio meats, Chinese cinnamon and peppers, each separately, and like wise salt, and cut up parsley, mint and celery leaf. Then break eggs and beat them, and add the meat and ingredients sufficiently, then fry it and turn it over in sesame oil, and it comes out most excellent.
1 lb hamburger meat (or ground meat of an acceptable nature)
2 Tbs ground pistachios (unsalted)
1tsp ea of mint, parsley, celery leaf
½ tsp ea of salt, ground peppercorns, cinnamon
1 Tbs sesame oil
I used hamburger meat (10% or less of fat) as the main meat basis. My reasoning on the ground beef is that it is widely available, if I had had venison on hand I would have used that instead being a HUGE venison fan. Turkey could probably have been used as well as any other good ground meat depending on the cooks choice and taste. I skipped the boiling of the meat as the hamburger was pretty tender already. Originally meat was boiled to tenderize as the animals were probably a lot tougher then the grain feed meats seen in modern times. For those curious, no…I was not going to hand grind 1 lb of beef. Some things just need to be done by machines!
I set the meat in a bowl then added the pistachios that had been roughly chopped then pounded fine with a mortar and pestle (per the recipe these too were ground assuming finely ground), the egg and the spices. The egg is used as a binding agent for the meat as lean meat does not hold together as well as a fattier grind.
After everything was combined together well meatballs were rolled out. I made mine smaller then a golf-ball but larger then a hazelnut. Some recipes call for meatballs the size of hazelnuts, which aren’t that big while others do not specify at all. I choose to stick to a comfortable bite sized portion.
The meatballs were then fried in a pan with sesame oil till done.
The recipe specifically says sesame oil. Sesame oil is very tasty and there are several varieties. The dark sesame oil leaves a very heavy oily/nutty taste while the lighter sesame oils leave a roasted nut taste. The varieties are some what in order to using extra virgin olive oil to regular olive oil. The darker the oil the more pronounced the sesame oil taste.
These are actually very good on their own. I also really liked them with a yogurt/garlic dip made with Labayniyya (meat (balls) with yogurt). The traditional dinner or lunch probably would have included either rice or couscous, vegetables (fried spinach is never wrong for meat dishes) and a flat bread used to scoop every possible bite up.