Monday, 17 October 2011

Königsberger Klopse (Meatballs in a tangy creamy sauce)

Here's another guest recipe, this time from Peter in Maidenhead.

This is a recipe of my mother’s which she, in turn, learned from her mother. Mum grew up in East Prussia just before and during the Second World War which is just about as far east as you could go in the old Germany. It is the area in the eastern “elbow” of the Baltic Sea just below Lithuania, and Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) is its capital.

The “Klopse” of the recipe’s name are in fact meatballs which are cooked in a typically East Prussian creamy, yet tangy sauce. The dish was a favourite Sunday dinner in the Königsberg region and even though we have become a bit blasé about meatballs these days, I think it still holds up well as a choice for an informal dinner party with friends or a Sunday lunch for the whole family.

A couple of advisories before we start: The recipe calls for “gemischtes Hack” as the basic ingredient for the meatballs. This is a 50/50 mixture of ground beef and ground pork. I would wholeheartedly recommend using this rather than straight minced beef and I would also recommend not going for the “extra lean” option. In my experience, meatballs turn out much juicier if the meat has a little bit of fat in it. An alternative to the ground pork is ground veal and I have also tried the recipe with half ground turkey, although I didn’t think this turned out as flavoursome as it could be.

Secondly, the dish involves pickled capers which will cause concern to some. My recommendation is not to tell anyone about the capers beforehand – you will most likely find that your guests love them in this dish (even if they were iffy about them beforehand). However, if you really can’t stand the taste of capers, then diced pickled gherkins will serve as an adequate replacement.

I hope you will enjoy this unique taste of the Baltic as much as I have – both as a child and as an adult.

OK, now on to the recipe...

(serves 4)

For the meatballs
500g ground meat (ideally 250g beef and 250g pork, not too lean)
2 dry white rolls (or slices of white bread)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 egg
marjoram, salt & pepper to taste

For the broth
1 medium onion, quartered
1 bay leaf
A few pepper corns and allspice berries
Approx. 0.75 litres (1 1/2 pints) of beef stock (a stock cube and water will suffice)

For the sauce
A large knob of butter (ca. 40g)
2 tablespoons of plain flour (ca. 30g)
1 small glass of pickled capers
3 tablespoons of soured cream or crème fraiche
Juice of 1/2 lemon
A good splash of white wine
1 egg yolk

Soak the bread in warm water, then press to remove excess moisture. Combine the meat, bread, chopped onion, and egg in a large bowl and knead thoroughly (use your hands for this, so that you can really feel the ingredients come together). Season to taste with salt, pepper and marjoram. Form meatballs roughly the size of an egg and put them aside on a plate.

Meanwhile, heat up the broth in a suitable saucepan and let it boil on a medium heat for a few minutes while you finish making the meatballs. Add the meatballs to the saucepan, bring the broth back to a boil and then cook on a low to medium heat for 10-12 minutes. When the meatballs start rising to the surface, they are usually done. Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon and keep them warm.

Pour the broth through a fine sieve and reserve it. Melt the butter in the saucepan, add the flour and make a light roux. Gradually add the broth, stirring well all the time. Add the capers (including the pickling juice), lemon juice, wine and soured cream and cook on a low heat for a few minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and maybe even a bit of sugar (if the sauce is too tart for your taste). Re-introduce the meatballs and let them simmer in the sauce for a good 5 minutes. Finally, take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the whisked egg yolk.

Decorate with extra capers in the serving dish. Traditionally, this is accompanied by boiled potatoes, grated carrots and pickled beets (or gherkins).

Any leftovers can be frozen and will make a quick and tasty supper on a slice or two of fresh granary bread.

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