Belgium Meatballs w/ Sour Cherries

This is an example of great classic Belgium cuisine. Sweet, sour and savory all in one dish! It seems, in Europe alone, many countries have their own special version of meatball dishes, from Swedish and German meatballs in brown or white sauce to Italian meatballs with their classic red sauce.

Although meatballs are a staple of Belgium home cooking, you will find a variety of different recipes throughout the country.

Boulets a la Liegeoise, (a traditional Belgium meatball originating from the city of Liege), are a blend of ground beef and pork, eggs, some bread crumbs, salt, pepper and a bit of nutmeg. That’s it …. no fusion cooking, bells and whistles. Just good, plain food made special with a tart cherry sauce.

I just couldn’t resist making a variation of these since Brion & I have our own little cherry tree in our back yard.

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Belgium Meatballs w/ Sour Cherries
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Instructions
Meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a baking tray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients & mix well. Measure out 20 meatballs, approximately 40 gm each, & place on the baking tray.
  3. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.
Cherry Sauce
  1. Measure cherry juice & cornstarch into a dish to combine.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat cherries & add cornstarch mixture. Stir until sauce thickens, add honey & stir again.
  3. Remove from heat. Drizzle over meatballs or serve on the side. Serve hot.
Brown Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter; add flour to make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Slowly add beef broth, stirring until sauce thickens. Season to taste.
  3. Serve as an alternate to the cherry sauce with Belgium meatballs.

Corned Beef & Potato Cabbage Rolls

Stuffed cabbage is a humble food and probably originated , as most comfort food has, from leftovers. Common place in Russian, German, Irish, Hungarian and Slovakian cooking, cabbage is an ingredient that is filling and inexpensive.

Readily available, this cold season crop is the under-appreciated cousin of brussel sprouts. There’s nothing particularly mysterious, alluring or exotic about it. Cabbage’s distinctive odor might have something to do with its unpopularity. When cooked, it has a pungent and pervasive, slightly sour, sulfur-y smell.

All that aside, cabbage becomes buttery soft when cooked. This allows its wide and sturdy leaves to be used as wraps for soft fillings. Any type of ground meat can be used, seasoned with garlic, onions and spices. Additional ingredients may include rice, breadcrumbs, barley, eggs, dried fruit, nuts, veggies, dried or fresh mushrooms, etc. The ‘sauce’ for baking stuffed cabbage, varies widely by cuisine.

These cabbage rolls are the full meal deal’, all rolled up in one …. corned beef, cabbage, mashed potatoes and cheese. Yum!

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Corned Beef & Potato Cabbage Rolls
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SERVINGS
Ingredients
Cabbage
Filling
Sauce for Baking Cabbage Rolls
Servings
SERVINGS
Ingredients
Cabbage
Filling
Sauce for Baking Cabbage Rolls
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Instructions
Cabbage
  1. Place about 1-inch of water in a large kettle. Using a sharp knife, Cut the thick stem out of the bottom of the cabbage head leaving all of the leaves intact. Place the cabbage head into the pot of water. Cover the pot & bring the water to a boil. Steam the cabbage for 15 minutes. Once the cabbage is steamed, remove it from the pot & place it on a plate to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease an 8 X 8-inch baking dish.
Filling
  1. In a large bowl, combine 'pulled' (cooked) corned beef, mashed potatoes, egg, mustard, parsley, salt & pepper. Mix well & set aside.
  2. Gently remove 15 (there will be a few extra in case of any that tear) cooled outer leaves from the cabbage head. Set them aside. Chop a cup of the remaining cabbage & add it to the filling mixture. Mix well.
  3. Lay a one cabbage leaf on a cutting board, with the stem facing towards you. Cut out the tough bottom section of the vein in the leaf, creating a V-notch. Place roughly 1/4 cup of the filling at the center of the leaf (around the tip of the notch). Roll the bottom (cut side) of the leaf up over the filling. Fold the two sides in. Continue rolling away from you to wrap the filling tightly in the remaining leaf.
  4. Place roll in baking dish. Continue with the remaining filling & leaves, creating two rows of 5 rolls each in baking dish.
Sauce
  1. In a small dish, whisk together beef broth & flour until no lumps remain. Pour over cabbage rolls. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil & bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove from oven & sprinkle top of the rolls with Swiss cheese. Cover & allow to sit for 5 minutes. Nice to serve with some RYE BREAD STICKS.
Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer not to cook your own corned beef, just purchase a thick piece of 'deli' corned beef, using forks you can easily 'pull' the meat apart that's needed in this recipe.

Loaded Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback potatoes are a type of potato dish, not a variety of potato. In their simplest form, hasselback potatoes are nothing more than whole potatoes cut in such a way as to resemble a fan or accordion when roasted. The outside of the potato becomes crisp and brown while the inside is soft & creamy.

This Swedish dish gets its name from Hasselbacken, the Stockholm restaurant where it was first served. You might say, they are a cross between baked and roasted potatoes. What distinguishes the two is the way the potato is prepared for roasting. The potato, which may or may not be peeled, is cut into very thin slices but without completing the cuts, leaving all slices connected along the bottom of the potato. As the potato cooks, the individual slices separate slightly and give the finished dish its distinctive look. The original recipe drizzles them with melted butter and seasons with salt & pepper which creates their crispy exteriors.

Over time, many variations have been made and are simply products and preferences of the individual preparing them. It is the slicing and roasting that distinguish the dish as hasselback potatoes rather than the variations on seasonings or toppings.

Today, I’m doing a ‘loaded’ version, taking it from a side dish to the main course.

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Loaded Hasselback Potatoes
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Instructions
Potatoes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Make a row of deep cuts in each potato from end to end, they should be just under 1/4-inch apart. Take care not to cut the potatoes all the way through. See 'Recipe Notes' below.
  2. Place the potatoes in a casserole dish, brush them with melted butter & sprinkle with salt & pepper on top. Bake potatoes for an hour OR until TENDER but crispy. Allow potatoes to cool a little then place a small piece of cheese in each gap. Set casserole with potatoes in it aside.
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp oil & add onions & garlic; saute for a few minutes then add beef & continue to cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain any extra oil/fat from saucepan. Stir in tomato paste (if using) & beef broth; simmering until liquid has been reduced so only a small amount remains.
Bechamel Sauce
  1. In a heavy saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour & cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly, about 2 minutes. Add hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring to a boil; add salt & pepper to taste, lower the heat & cook, stirring 2-3 minutes more. Remove from heat.
Assembly / Baking
  1. Divide the filling between the potatoes, which should still be in the casserole dish. Pour the sauce evenly on top & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place the casserole back in the oven (350 F) for another 30 minutes.
Recipe Notes
  • The secret to making hasselback potatoes is to use a large wooden spoon. Place the potato onto the spoon & cut thin slices across the potato. The edges of the wooden spoon will stop the knife from cutting all the way through the potato.

Swedish Meatball & Potato Casserole

No doubt, since we have just finished the 2019 Christmas season, you enjoyed some Swedish meatball hors de ouvers. Personally, I love the little morsels so I thought it would be interesting to turn them into a main course casserole.

I have heard the question asked as to what the difference between Italian and Swedish meatballs is. First of all, the meat blend of ground beef, veal and pork are the main players in both styles. The difference comes in the ratio of each meat being used. While both varieties include ingredients such as minced onion and milk soaked bread or crumbs, the seasoning in these two iconic meatballs differs greatly. Swedish meatballs traditionally use spices such as allspice, nutmeg, white pepper and ginger while Italian calls for grated Parmesan, garlic, parsley, fennel seed and oregano.

Another ingredient that is most always used in Swedish meatballs is mashed potatoes. Size is important … Italian meatballs (other than in soup) are quite large whereas Swedish are generally like a hearty teaspoon full.

When it comes to sauce, this is a big part of the flavoring component that sets them apart. Swedish meatballs are cooked in a cream gravy made with beef broth whereas Italian meatballs are served in a tangy, bright red tomato sauce.

All that being said, it brings me back to my casserole. It combines all the ingredients of the Swedish meatballs put uniquely together in a casserole and topped with a mozzarella cheese. Perfect January meal!

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Swedish Meatball & Potato Casserole
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
White Sauce
Potatoes
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
White Sauce
Potatoes
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Instructions
White Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, cook margarine & flour until bubbly then slowly add broth & cream. Gently boil for a few minutes; add soya sauce, salt & pepper. Remove from heat & set aside.
Potatoes
  1. Boil potatoes in salted water until tender but not overcooked; cut into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange them on the bottom & sides of a 8-inch round baking dish.
Meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, combine all meatball ingredients & form into balls. Arrange them over the slices of the potatoes on the bottom of baking dish. Use the remaining potato slices to create 'walls' between each meatball.
  2. Pour white sauce into each meatball 'pocket'. Sprinkle entire dish with grated mozzarella cheese. Bake 45 minutes or until meatballs are cooked & cheese is golden.
Recipe Notes
  • You can definitely use whatever ratio of meat combo you prefer or just use one one type, your choice.

Classic Beef PLov

‘Plov’ originated from Uzbekistan (a landlocked country in Central Asia), centuries ago. It has become known and loved throughout Central Asia as well as being a staple dish in Russia.. This meal differs according to the occasion: a wedding plov is the most magnificent, a holiday plov a bit less exotic and there is even an everyday plov. These vary both in cooking technique and ingredients. Traditionally, plov is made with mutton, rice, carrots and spices and involves three main stages.

There are over sixty different plov recipes in Uzbek cuisine. In every area it is cooked in a special way. To an experienced gourmet, it would be easy to recognize its origin from what I’ve read.

Time has changed and refined plov recipes with more ingredients being added. Plov is usually served on big ceramic or porcelain plates.

This turned out to be a very nice meal. As usual I always enjoy food history as much as trying the recipe. I hope you found the blog interesting and the plov tasty if you had a chance to try it.


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Classic Beef PLov

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Course Main Dish
Cuisine European, German

Servings


Ingredients

Course Main Dish
Cuisine European, German

Servings


Ingredients

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Instructions
  1. Season cubed meat with salt. In a large skillet, heat a splash of olive oil & add meat cubes; brown well. Remove meat from skillet. To the same pan add onion, carrot & garlic. Saute until golden brown. Return meat to pan & add broth, seasonings & stir together. Cover; reduce heat to low & simmer for 1 hour or until meat is tender.

  2. When plov has finished simmering, add garbanzo beans. Sprinkle uncooked rice evenly over the meat & broth. DO NOT stir the rice & meat together, simply arrange it so it submerged under broth. Season with fresh ground pepper, cover & continue to cook over a low heat. DO NOT stir the rice during cooking time to create light & airy rice that is not mashed together. When rice is cooked THEN stir together & serve.


Recipe Notes
  • Traditionally, plov is accompanied by salads made of fresh or marinated vegetables - tomatoes, cucumbers, radish & fruits & herbs such as pomegranate, dill or basil.

Swedish Meatballs

With New Years Eve gatherings fast approaching, these little gems come to mind in the form of  hors ‘d’ oeuvres. Of course, they are always great for a main dish as well.

The Swedish word for meatball, ‘Kottbullar’, first appeared in print around 1754. They are traditional Swedish ‘old-world’ fare at Smorgasbords and other festive occasions. Initially Swedish meatballs were only enjoyed by upper class Swedes but the increased availability of wood stoves and meat grinders in the 1850’s made meatballs accessible to the middle class as well. In northern Scandinavian countries beef was considered a luxury item, which meant meatballs were highly prized.

The meat content can vary based on geography. In southern Sweden, they are most often a 50/50 mix of beef and pork whereas further north in Sweden 70/30 of beef to pork is typical. Likely other options would be veal, venison, lamb or moose. Size-wise, they are smaller than those of Italy or Germany, typically not larger than a golf ball or smaller than  3/4″(2.5 cm) across.

The cream gravy (sauce) and spices play a big part in the taste of this dish, traditionally served with lingonberry preserves, mashed potatoes and pickled cucumber salad. The ‘pressed cucumber’, as it is called, provides some crunch, saltiness and acidity to the sweet creaminess of the rest of the meal.

In America, Swedish meatballs were very popular in the beginning of the 20th century and again in the 1950’s-1960′.

Brion and I have always enjoyed these tasty little meatballs so we are having them as our main course meal today.

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Swedish Meatballs
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depending on the size you make
Ingredients
Cream Sauce
Servings
depending on the size you make
Ingredients
Cream Sauce
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Instructions
Meatballs
  1. Soak breadcrumbs in 2 cups of 1/2 & 1/2 cream. Fry onion in margarine. Combine all meatball ingredients & mix well. Shape into 1-inch balls. Preheat broiler to a high setting.
  2. Place meatballs in a large baking dish, allowing a bit of space in between each one. Broil about 4" (10 cm) from heat until the tops are browned nicely. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Set oven to bake & reduce temperature to 300 F. Bake until meatballs are cooked through, depending on their size. If it seems they are getting too brown, cover lightly with a piece of foil to finish baking.
Cream Sauce (Gravy)
  1. In a small saucepan, cook margarine & flour until bubbly. Slowly add broth & cream; boil for a FEW minutes, add soy, salt & pepper. Pour over hot meatballs.
Recipe Notes
  • This recipe can easily be made in whatever amount you need but I find making the whole thing & freezing them in various amounts works great for quick future meals. Freezing them without any sauce also gives you the option to adapt them to other types of meals.

Beef Barley Stew with Roasted Vegetables

Stews have been an important food for most of the world’s people for thousands of years. They are wonderful concoctions, savored for their flavorful combinations as well as their reminders of home and family.

Geographical location plays a big role in how beef stews are made from different regions. In areas where the cold season is longer, the stew will usually be thicker in sauce, cooked longer and have heavier or more flavorful ingredients. In areas that have a warm climate, stews will be a lot spicier in flavor for inducing perspiration to cool the body.

In the Western world, meat stews are categorized as ‘brown’ or ‘white’. This means that the meat is browned in fat before liquid is added for brown stew; meat for the white stew is not cooked in fat before liquid is added.

The culinary history of both Canada and the United States includes numerous examples of stews brought by European settlers. Beef stews have been the most popular recipes among this legacy. In addition to being versatile in their ingredients, stews can also be used as filling for pastry shells, over mashed potatoes, rice or biscuits.

Brion and I have always enjoyed the combination of beef and barley. To my knowledge, the idea originated from the ‘Scotch Broth’ soup. In today’s particular stew the vegetables are roasted, using their natural sugars to caramelize, helping to create additional flavor in the stew.

 

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Beef Barley Stew with Roasted Vegetables
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, 1/4 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp pepper. Add meat; toss to coat. In a Dutch oven heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add half of the meat; cook until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove meat from Dutch oven; set aside. Repeat with another 1 Tbsp oil & remaining meat.
  2. Add onion, garlic & thyme to Dutch oven. Cook & stir for 3 minutes. Add 1 3/4 cups broth, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of the Dutch oven. Add remaining beef broth & water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a shallow roasting pan combine potatoes & carrots and/or parsnips. Drizzle with the remaining 2 Tbsp oil; sprinkle with 1/4 tsp each salt & pepper. Toss to coat. Roast, uncovered, for 35 - 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender & lightly browned, stirring once or twice.
  4. Stir barley into beef mixture. Cook about 35 minutes more or until barley is tender.Stir in roasted vegetables. If desired, sprinkle with fresh parsley.
Recipe Notes
  • Stew can be placed in an airtight container, covered & refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.