Bavarian Meatballs

Inspiration / Food & Wine

Great Balls of Fire: An Unusual Twist on a Kitchen Classic

Contents

Steve Farrow Steve Farrow

Our Wine Without Fuss food and wine man, Steve Farrow goes on and on about meatballs before sharing a delicious Bavarian-style recipe to mop up your wine with.

People who know me know that I talk balls a lot. Meatballs, that is! Why? Because I just love them. Who doesn't and can they be trusted? While I grudgingly allow that they probably can, I will keep looking askance at them when they offer any opinion…

The mighty meatball is so versatile – serve with pasta; in a curry; bobbing cheerily in a broth; grilled on sticks; in a tin; deep fried; steamed; roasted; barbecued; flattened; elongated – you name it.

The Americans have even managed to get them into a supremely messy sub sandwich. I reckon every nation has their take on them. It's a way of making something simple but delicious for rich and poor alike, using up chopped or minced cheaper cuts of meat and adding value and your own spin on them.

Barbecue Meatballs

Meatballs have history. The Romans enjoyed them in many forms (as evidenced by the Roman cookbook of Apicius in the 1st century AD), and they probably got them from the Greeks who in turn may have snaffled the idea from the Persians. Doubtless a Cro-Magnon once sat wondering what to do with the tough cuts of mammoth he had left over after a particularly strenuous hunt and community butchering session. Almost certainly, I'm sure, he (or more likely, she) would have come up with meatballs.

I can recall with infantile amusement a pub menu in Suffolk that had a selection of medieval English dishes alongside its standard fish and chips and lasagne, which included 'pumpes of beef'. Fortunately this dish turned out to be spiced meatballs in wonderful gravy that were duly ordered and wolfed with gusto. From a side-on view I may have looked like an ostrich swallowing a succession of tennis balls such was my eagerness to devour such meaty delights.

It is surely no coincidence that meatballs, rather like convergent evolutionary traits, have come to the same point of development almost everywhere, give or take one or two backwater branches, and give or take a change in the herbs and spices here and there, across the globe… which it should be pointed out is meatball shaped!

From Scandinavia's frikadellen to Italy's polpette, the Greeks' keftédes, and Russia's kotleti and all points between in Europe; over to the Middle and Near East and their koftes and the sub-continent's koftas; China's lion's heads or wanzis, the gogi wanja of Korea, South America's various albondigas and the frikkadel of South Africa, you will find people chowing down on some version of a meatball.

Chinese Meatballs

Five billion people can't be wrong can they? After all, the hamburger is absolutely everywhere and that probably started as a meatball that someone dropped and accidentally stood on before invoking the five-second-rule and slapping it on the grill. It could have happened. I'd have eaten it.

I think I may there rest my case for the evangelists, m'lud.

On to the meat of it – the recipe!

So at the end of this rather relentless paean, I have a recipe that takes a quirky approach to making meatballs. I crushed and added ginger nut biscuits in place of the breadcrumbs to lighten the texture of the meatballs. When I first had this flavour combination I was dubious, worried about the sweetness it suggested, though the kitchen credentials of the lady who first made them for me were unimpeachable. A German, she called the dish Bavarian Meatballs so that is what I have done, but when I spoke to her about it recently she revealed that she got the recipe from some American ladies at a US Air Force base near her home town in the Pfalz, and that the recipe had about as much to do with Bavaria as I do (we won't mention my penchant for leather shorts and slapping).

Nevertheless, there was a gentle sweetly gingery spice to the dish that was delicious and not in the least overpowering. I have tweaked the recipe because in the version I was served it was the sauce that contained crushed ginger biscuits rather than the meatballs (a very Germanic thing with ginger biccies and lebkuchen), and I thought that the crumbs might be better off giving their flavour to the meat, acting as leavening, and I think I was right, big-headed as it sounds. It is a more subtle flavour than you think and very moreish, and the meatballs have a yielding quality when you bite into them that is very pleasurable.

Bavarian Meatballs

Ingredients

150g minced pork
150g minced beef
5 ginger nut biscuits, crushed to a fine crumb (use more if you like, or use a tsp of ground ginger if that's your bag)
1 onion finely diced
1 clove garlic finely diced
1 tsp salt
1 heaped tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp ground white pepper
½ tsp mixed spice
1 small egg, beaten
2 tbsp chopped chives
2 tbsp vegetable oil
A good, thick and glossy onion gravy to serve, or if you prefer, a mushroom sauce

Method

Meatballs

Over a low heat sauté the onions until softened and translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Put the minced meats, crushed ginger nuts, softened onion, 1 tablespoon of chives, garlic, spice, salt and peppers and the beaten egg in to a mixing bowl and amalgamate them thoroughly together.

With wet hands roll walnut sized balls of the mixture and put on a plate or tray and put in the fridge to set up for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a pan over a moderate heat and fry the meatballs until they are deeply golden all over, turning them regularly to get an even colouring. Put into a clean, warmed bowl.

Heat the onion gravy and pour it over the meatballs and gently manoeuvre them so that they are all nicely coated in the gravy. Serve scattered with the remaining tablespoon of chives (and with toothpicks), or straight onto a bed of creamy mashed potatoes. I like to add a tangle of shredded, steamed spring greens tossed with butter and toasted caraway seeds to go that extra Mittel-European mile.

Wine Recommendations

Red wines

Most of the reds in our Wine Without Fuss cases will match well with the Bavarian meatballs but I particularly recommend Pepp Weinviertel Blauer Zweigelt 2016 (Discovery Case) for its brightly juicy berry-fruit flavours and freshness which cuts through the gentle spice and succulence of the meatballs.

The cherry-fruited Avaniel, Ribera del Duero 2016 (Winerack Essentials), the berry and spice licked Corse Rouge, Terra Nostra Niellucciu 2016 (Discovery), and the riper, darker Meerlust Estate Red, Stellenbosch 2016 (Worldwide Wonders) will all work very well indeed. For something denser and weightier but nonetheless vibrant, the Saint-Chinian, Château La Dournie 2015 (French Classics) has spice and fruit enough to embrace the meatiness and very gentle sweetness of the dish.

White wines

If you desire a white wine the dish is not so heavy, the beef being leavened by the pork, that it can't be done and you could do worse than give the Costières de Nîmes, Tradition Blanc, Mas des Bressades 2016 (Worldwide Wonders) a try for its full flavours and bold texture, Three Terraces Marlborough Pinot Gris 2017 (Discovery) for its generosity of fruit to carry the soft spicing of the dish, similarly the peachy Atma White Malagousia and Xinomavro, Thymiopoulos 2016 (Discovery). Finally, you could try the Esporão Monte Velho Branco, Alentejano 2016 (Winerack Essentials) for the savoury note in the depths of the ripe fruit and freshness.

This recipe, while hopefully of use and interest to all, was written with the latest selections of our much-loved Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind.

Friendly, flexible and commitment-free, Wine Without Fuss is now better than ever, with five plans to suit every taste and budget. And you can cancel, change or skip an order at any time!

Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?

Society Promise
Members before profit
Awards

Our website uses cookies with the aim of providing you with a better service. By using this website you consent to The Wine Society using cookies in accordance with our policy.

Close

4.4. Cookie Policy

By using The Wine Society website, you agree to cookies being used in accordance with the policy outlined below. If you do not agree to this, you must alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you or cease using the website.

The Wine Society uses cookies to enable easy navigation and shopping on the website. We take the privacy of all who use our website very seriously and ensure that our use of cookies complies with current EU legislation. The following guide outlines what cookies are, the types of cookies used on The Society's website and how they work.

You may alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you, but this will cause difficulties when accessing and using some areas of the site. Instructions on how to do this can also be found below.

4.4.1. What are 'Cookies'?

  • Most major websites use cookies.
  • A cookie is a very small data file placed on your hard drive by a web page server. It is essentially your access card, and cannot be executed as code or deliver viruses. It is uniquely yours and can only be read by the server that gave it to you.
  • Cookies cannot be used by themselves to identify you.
  • The purpose of a basic cookie is to tell the server that you returned to that web page or have items in your basket. Without cookies, websites and their servers have no memory. A cookie, like a key, enables swift passage from one place to the next.
  • Without a cookie every time you open a new web page the server where that page is stored will treat you like a completely new visitor.
  • More recently, cookies have also been used to collect information about the user which allows a profile of their preferences and interests to be created so that they can be served with interest-based rather than generic information about available goods and services.

4.4.2. How do Cookies help The Wine Society?

Cookies allow our website to function effectively. Cookies also help us to arrange content to match your preferred interests more quickly. We can learn what information is important to our visitors, and what isn't.

4.4.3. How does The Wine Society use cookies?

The Wine Society does not accept advertising from third parties and therefore, as a rule, does not serve third-party cookies. Exceptions to this include performance/analytical cookies (see below), used anonymously to improve the way our website works, the provision of personalised recommendations, and occasions when we may team up with suppliers to offer special discounts on goods or services.

The Society uses technology to track the patterns of behaviour of visitors to our site.

4.4.4. What type of cookies does The Wine Society use?

We use the following three types of cookies:

4.4.4.1. Strictly Necessary Cookies
These cookies are required for the operation of our website, enabling you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies, services like shopping baskets or e-billing cannot be provided. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Authentication Cookie and Anonymous Cookie
    These cookies remember that you are logged in to your account – without them, the website would repeatedly request your login details with each new page you visit during your time on our website. They are removed once your session has ended.
  • Session Cookie
    These cookies are used to remember who you are as you use our site: without them, the website would be unable to tell the difference between you and another Wine Society member and facilities such as your basket and the checkout process would therefore not be able to function. They too are removed once your session has ended.

4.4.4.2. Functionality & Targeting/Tracking Cookies
These cookies are used to recognise you when you return to our website and to provide enhanced features. This allows us to personalise our content for you. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Unique User Cookie
    This cookie is used to:
    • store your share number in order to identify that you have visited the website before. Without this cookie, we would be unable to tell whether you are a member or not.
    • record your visit to the website, the pages you have visited and the links you have followed. We use this information to make our website, the content displayed on it and direct marketing communications we may send to you or contact you about more relevant to your interests.
    • This cookie expires after 13 months.
  • Peerius Cookies
    These third-party cookies are used to provide you with personalised recommendations based on your purchase and browsing history. They expire within 4 hours of your visit.

4.4.4.3. Performance/analytical cookies
These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don't collect information which identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Google Analytics Cookies
    These are third-party cookies to enable Google Analytics to monitor website traffic. All information is recorded anonymously. Using Google Analytics allows The Society to better understand how members use our site and monitor website traffic.

4.4.4.4. Authentication Cookie
In order for us to ensure that your data remains secure it is necessary for us to verify that your session is authentic (i.e. it has not been compromised by a malicious user). We do this by storing an otherwise meaningless unique ID in a cookie for the duration of your visit. No personal information can be gained from this cookie.

4.4.5. How do you turn cookies off?

All modern browsers allow you to modify your cookie settings so that all cookies, or those types which are not acceptable to you, are blocked. However, please note that this may affect the successful functioning of the site, particularly if you block all cookies, including essential cookies. For example, In Internet Explorer, go to the Tools Menu, then go to Internet Options, then go to Privacy. Here you can change the rules your browser uses to accept cookies. You can find out more in the public sources mentioned below.

4.4.6. Learn more about cookies

4.4.7. Changes to our cookie policy

Any changes we may make to our cookie policy in the future will be posted on the website and, where appropriate, notified to you by email. Please check back frequently to see any updates and changes to our cookie policy.