Sunday, July 1, 2007

Meat balls

I love the tragicomic song by Calvin Russell called One Meat Ball.

Here are the words:

Little man walked up and down,
To find an eatin' place in town.
He looked the menu thru and thru,
To see what a dollar bill might do.


One meat ball,
One meat ball,
One meat ball,
All he could get was one meat ball.

He told that waiter near at hand,
The simple dinner he had planned.
The guests were startled one and all,
To hear that waiter loudly call.

repeat chorus

Little man felt so ill at ease,
He said: "Some bread Sir, if you please."
The waiter hollered down the hall:
You get no bread with your one meat ball.

Little man felt so very bad,
One meat ball is all he had.
And in his dreams he can still hear that call
You get no bread with your one meat ball.

Maybe I was inspired by this song, today, when I decided to prepare an experimental dish of meat balls. It's more likely that I was thinking of a Greek restaurant in Sydney—called simply The Greeks—that proposed this delicacy back at the time I was a student. In any case, my experiment was conclusive, and future visitors at Gamone are likely to be served this dish.

One would imagine that meat balls and tomato sauce are a simple dish. In fact, they require some twenty ingredients. And their preparation and cooking, from start to finish, take about an hour of fiddling around. The quantities of ingredients indicated here are for two people.

Meat balls

— 350 grams minced steak

— 30 grams breadcrumbs

— 1 medium-sized onion, chopped finely

— 1 clove garlic, crushed

— 1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves

— 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves

— 1 teaspoon caraway powder

— 1 egg, slightly beaten


— 2 tablespoons olive oil

— 1 medium-sized onion, chopped finely

— 2 cloves garlic, crushed

— 100 ml red wine

— 400 grams tomato pulp [can]

— 50 grams tomato concentrate [can or tube]

— 150 ml chicken stock [commercial soup cube]

— 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves

— 1 teaspoon sugar

— 1 pinch cinnamon


Mix together the ingredients for the meat balls, then form eight balls about the size of eggs. Don't start to cook them until the sauce is ready. Start the preparation of the sauce by cooking the onion and garlic in oil. Cover with wine and let it simmer until reduced to about half its volume. Add the other ingredients for the sauce, along with salt and pepper, and let it simmer, without covering the pan, for ten minutes. Meanwhile, start to fry the flattened meat balls, on both sides, in a non-stick pan. Cover the meat balls with the sauce, and let them cook gently for another ten minutes. Sprinkle finely-chopped fresh mint on the meat balls, and serve with saffron rice.

Naturally, if unexpected guests arrive, you can always be inspired by Calvin Russell and only give one meat ball to each person... with or without bread, depending on your attitude to such guests.


  1. On day, my father decided to use grated carrots instead of breadcrumbs. I adopted his method and my friends seem to appreciate my meat balls. You should try one day.

  2. That sounds like an excellent modification, because the meat mixture in my basic recipe tends to be a little dry. I also intend to see whether meat balls react favorably to the deep freezer (there's no reason why they shouldn't), which plays a major role in my Gamone lifestyle. For ages now, my deep freezer has contained stocks of two of my favorite dishes, which I prepare regularly: curried turkey and a kind of chile con carne. Lately, in the gastronomic domain, I've been experimenting with roast duck lacquered with a mixture of honey and soy sauce. Talking about cooking, the Internet describes a new animated film in the USA called Ratatouille, whose star is a sympathetic rat. I can understand that the author must have been thrilled to find the name of a French dish that starts with "rat". But the choice of this title has obvious drawbacks: (a) No Americans have ever heard of this term, and they probably know nothing about this dish. (b) They surely can't pronounce the word. (c) Ratatouille doesn't have much to do with grande cuisine.