Pork has been a fundamental part of Andalucian cuisine for over six centuries, and it gained even greater significance during times of religious intolerance. When Jewish and Arabic people were expelled from Spain, Christians aimed to cultivate a cuisine that would be deemed offensive to the “infidels” who chose to stay. Fortunately, we now live in more tolerant times, and we can appreciate our culinary heritage with a clear conscience.
Albóndigas provide a quick and practical way to use up leftover family joint. Today, we can simply request minced pork from our local butcher, but in Andalucia’s recent past, before refrigeration and when religious observation forbade meat consumption on certain days, there had to be an efficient way of cooking up the last of the leg of pork – and albóndigas were the perfect solution!
Albóndigas come in many forms, including meatballs made from cod, but the most common are albóndigas oscuras, or “dark” meatballs simmered in tomato sauce, and albóndigas claras, or “pale” albóndigas, prepared with a light almond sauce. Today, we will be making the latter. (By the way, the name “albóndigas” derives from the Arabic word “al-bunduq,” meaning hazelnut, which the original meatballs apparently resembled in size and shape.)
Recipe for Albóndigas Claras
This recipe will make sufficient meatballs for 6 servings
- 500 grams (18 oz) of minced pork
- 50 grams (2 oz) of bread
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 tablespoons of finely-chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons of finely-chopped parsley
- olive oil
- 25 almonds, blanched and skinned
- 1 slice of bread
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup of caldo (ie, chicken or vegetable stock)
- 10 peppercorns
- olive oil
- half a teaspoon of saffron
- 1 small glass of white wine
- Put the minced pork in a bowl. Soak the bread in milk, then squeeze off the excess and place it in with the pork. Crush the garlic and add it, also blending in the onion, parsley, salt, nutmeg, pepper and the beaten egg. Mix it thoroughly, so that an even paste is achieved.
- Taking pieces of the mixture, and with flour on your hands, roll them into spheres about the size of golf balls.
- Fry on a gentle heat until they are cooked through. When brown on all sides, they can be taken off the heat.
- Fry the almonds in oil, together with the bread and garlic. Blend the peppercorns and saffron, using a little salt, then add the almond mixture to this.
- Add the wine, so that you end up with a smooth paste. This can now go back into the hot oil, to which the caldo is now added. This will need only a few minutes to form a delicious sauce.
- The meatballs can now be added to the sauce, and heated gently for about 20 minutes. If the sauce starts to thicken too much, just add a little more caldo or water.
Here are a few tips to help make your Albóndigas Claras really delicious
- Use fresh ingredients: Be sure to use fresh, high-quality pork and fresh garlic for the best flavor.
- Don’t overmix the meat: Mix the pork and other ingredients just until they are combined. Overmixing can result in tough, dry meatballs.
- Use a mixture of pork and beef: If you prefer a richer, more complex flavor, you can use a combination of ground pork and ground beef in your meatballs.
- Season well: Be sure to season the meat mixture well with salt and pepper. You can also add other spices or herbs to suit your taste.
- Let the meatballs brown: When cooking the meatballs, allow them to brown well on each side before flipping them. This will help develop a rich, caramelized flavor.
- Use homemade breadcrumbs: If possible, make your own breadcrumbs using stale bread. This will result in a more flavorful and textured meatball.
- Serve with crusty bread or rice: Albóndigas Claras are traditionally served with crusty bread or over rice, which helps soak up the delicious sauce.
- Make ahead of time: Albóndigas Claras can be made ahead of time and reheated just before serving. This can actually improve the flavor, as the meatballs have more time to absorb the sauce.
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