The fall was very busy for both Neni and me and so we haven’t had a chance to cook together. But last week I went up to her lovely apartment on Riverside drive, to learn how she makes beef meatball soup. Every time I cook with her, I learn something really new. This time, Neni showed me how she mixes raw rice into her meatball mixture and then boils the meatballs in stock. The rice swells and cooks, becoming a tender binder. I’ve always bound meatballs with egg and/or breadcrumbs, so this recipe was a real eye opener for me. Neni adds an egg sauce at the end to this soup, but it is fine without. Indeed this soup is delicate and delicious…. just like Neni.
Neni’s Beef Meatball Soup
3 medium carrots, cut into bite-sized chunks
4 cups chopped cabbage, savory or stone, including the core
3 cups beef or chicken stock
To Make the Meatballs
1 medium onion, cut in chunks and ground in a food processor or blender to pulp, or you can grate on the big holes of a box grater
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup chopped flat-leafed parsley
1/3 cup dried mint
½ cup jasmine rice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the carrots, then the cabbage in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.
Make the meatballs. Combine 1/2 cup of the onion and all the remaining meatball ingredients and mix well. There’s a lot of mint in these meatballs. “You want to be able to smell the mint” said Neni. Roll into meatballs about 2 inches in diameter. Place the meatballs in a layer on top of the cabbage. Add the remaining onion, if there is any. Put a plate that fits in the pot on top to stabilize the meatballs. Add the stock, cover and bring to a boil over a high heat. Then turn the heat to medium for 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. The rice in the meatballs will swell up. This is good!
Neni adds an egg sauce to this dish. Here’s what she does.
For the Egg Sauce
Juice from 3 large lemons
3 large eggs, separated
Whip the egg whites into soft peaks in a large bowl. Drop in the egg yolks one at a time, folding in after each one. With a large ladle, scoop up some soup. Add and equal amount of the lemon juice and pour into the egg mixture, whisking all the while. Repeat until you have used all the lemon juice, then add all the remaining sauce into the egg mixture, whisking all the while.
Dump the egg sauce back in the soup pot and serve immediately.