As I've mentioned before - I love one-pot dishes: entrees that incorporate proteins, starches and vegetables all in one. I'd never made Albóndigas soup in the past, probably because I thought that having to make all the meatballs would be time-consuming. And while it did take a bit of time, the end result was pretty rewarding - you can even enlist loved ones in forming the little round spheres.
The word Albóndigas come form the Arabic al-bunduq, which means hazelnut. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) By extension, these little meatballs are small and round. Though I was pressed for time, I eventually began to relax and really enjoyed the process of forming the meat, rice and spices into small neat shapes.
Once again I had turned to one of my favourite foodblogs on the web - Elise's Simply Recipes - for this dish. Elise notes that what makes her family's recipe distinctive is the addition of mint, which we have in our backyard in abundance. This did provide a unique and very enjoyable flavour to the soup.
The soup is hearty and healthy. It utilizes very little fat - just a few tablespoons of olive oil for sauteeing, some ground beef mixed with rice, and a mixture of tomato sauce and vegetables. One could presumably even make the meatballs with ground chicken or turkey. If I were to make this dish over again, though, I'd perhaps make the meatballs with half beef and half pork, perhaps substitute the raw rice with bread, add in a little chopped bacon, and include a little paprika and cumin.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 3 quarts of chicken stock or beef stock OR water OR a mixture of both (we usually use half stock half water as the meatballs will create their own stock) [Note: I followed this guidance, but in the future will use all stock, not half stock/ half water.]
- 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
- 1/2 lb of string beans, strings and ends removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1/3 cup of raw white rice
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/4 cup of chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1/4 cup of chopped parsley
- 1 raw egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt [I'd add more salt - perhaps 2-3 teaspoons instead of just 1.5]
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- A dash of cayenne (optional)
- [As I noted above - I would in the future use half pork and half beef; omit the rice and use bread or breadcrumbs; perhaps add in some chopped bacon and more salt; plus a little paprika and cumin.]
- 1 1/2 cup of frozen or fresh peas
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, crumbled, or 1 Tbsp fresh chopped oregano
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Procedure [slightly adapted from Elise's original - my changes in italics.]
1) Prepare the meatballs first. Mix rice into meat, adding mint leaves and parsley, salt and pepper. Mix in raw egg. Form mixture into 1-inch meatballs.
2) Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed pot (5-qt) over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add broth mixture and tomato sauce. Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer.
3) Add the meatballs to the simmering soup, one at a time. Cover and let simmer for 1/2 hour. Add the carrots and green beans - simmer for another 15 minutes. Add the peas during the last 2 minutes. Add a few pinches of oregano and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a dash of cayenne, to taste.
4) Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or fresh oregano or both. Serves 6-8.