This recipe first appeared in 365 Foreign Dishes (published 1908). If you’ve ever read old cookbooks, the language, technique and instructions seem almost foreign to today’s home cook. Perhaps a trained chef might not find some of the terminology so strange, but for the average home cook, it’s a bit odd. Terms such as slow oven; quick oven took some research to get a temperature. Sure, slow was not as hot, quick was hot – but how hot is hot? (Slow oven is about 325-350 degrees; quick oven can be as low as 375 or as hot as 475, depending upon which site you follow – so it’s really guess-work and common sense based on what you are trying to cook in the first place). It took me a minute to figure out that “pulverized” sugar is powdered sugar. Measurements such as salt spoonful also needed to be converted – that’s about 1/4 teaspoon. Even with all their odd measurements and strange terms to digest, I enjoy reading vintage cookbooks. The beauty of older cookbooks is that they contain recipes completely made from scratch. No shortcuts of modern conveniences.
The older books are also a glimpse into the past. I especially enjoy the Etiquette and Advice sections of these older cookbooks. One of my cookbooks from the 1940s has an entire section dedicated to the proper placement of ashtrays and lighters for the formal, informal and buffet tables. A small leaflet book from 1906 explains what a woman’s role should be in the household and her submissive duties to her husband.
Anyway, the recipe that follows is more my take on the spirit of the original recipe rather that the original recipe itself. The recipe for Egyptian Meatballs called for raw meat, finely chopped. Okay, that’s ground beef by today’s standards. The recipe also called for Highly Seasoned Tomato Sauce. Hum – that’s open to so much interpenetration. I searched the internet for the definitive “highly seasoned” by 1908 standards, and that varied drastically from recipe to recipe. Not to be discouraged, I came up with my own take, based on availability at the time and spices that are popular in Egypt.
Egyptian Meatballs in Seasoned Tomato Sauce over Rice
Ingredients – Egyptian Meatballs
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 Celery Ribs, chopped
2 beaten eggs
1 lb Ground Beef
1 teaspoonful of curry-powder
Cumin to taste, about 1 teaspoon
Thyme to taste, about 1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh
Chopped parsley for color, dried parsley okay, about 1 tablespoon
1/2 cup of bread-crumbs
2 1/2 Cups boiled rice*
* While the recipe calls for boiled rice, I make mine with steamed rice.
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Lightly brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Set aside until ready to use.
Peel and finely chop onion. Set aside until ready to use.
Finely chop celery, set aside until ready to use.
In a small bowl, beat eggs. Set aside until ready to use.
Season ground beef with salt, pepper, thyme, cumin and curry-powder. Add chopped celery, onion and some chopped parsley. Mix with beaten eggs and bread-crumbs.
Shape meat mixture into small meatballs. Place on prepared baking sheet.
Place meatballs in the oven to bake, about 25 minutes, rotating and shaking pan about mid way.
While the meatballs are cooking, make the Highly Seasoned Tomato-Sauce:
Ingredients – Highly Seasoned Tomato-Sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon coriander
Dash Cayenne pepper
1 (15 oz) Can tomato sauce
1/2 cup Red wine
Chop onions and garlic. Set aside until ready to use.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add onion; cook 4-5 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, cook 30-60 seconds or until fragrant.
Sprinkle with paprika, coriander and cayenne pepper. Add tomato sauce and wine; cook until sauce thickens and is reduced, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
Place meatballs into seasoning tomato sauce. Gently stir to coat well in sauce. Allow meatballs to simmer in sauce for about 5 minutes to take on some of the flavors.
To Serve: Mold rice into a bowl or cup for individual servings and invert onto serving dish or plates. With a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to a serving platter or plates, creating a ring around the rice. Add Top with seasoned tomato sauce and serve hot.
If you would like to read the original recipe, here’s the link: