There is one thing that always puzzles me – why would Australians eat sandwiches for lunch? To me, a sandwich is breakfast (just simple cheese or ham and butter on rye) or an afternoon snack to tie me over until dinner (polony on white bread with mayo anyone?). Therefore lunch and dinner more often than not will be a cooked meal, usually consisting of some form of starch, meat and vegetables. So, let me present to you a quintessential Latvian lunch dish – meatballs (kotletes) served with potatoes and green salad.
This recipe for meatballs comes from my grandma, and, as far as I am concerned, they are the best meatballs ever. Her secret of deliciousness is hand minced pork loin, a dash of sour cream and lots of garlic cooking in the same pan.
As with most things in Latvian cooking, pretty much every family would have a different recipe for meatballs. Some add fried onions, raw minced onions, soaked oats or crumb the balls before frying. I have tried all of these variations and always come back to the recipe below. The meatballs are great with potatoes and salad where the buttermilk and cream act as a sauce, while cold leftover meatballs are delicious on white bread with butter (but I do not get leftover meatballs in my house, kids love them so much). If you’d like to add a bit of zing to your lunch, serve kotletes with potatoes and Latgales salāti.
Based on discussions among the members of Latvian Favourite Foods Facebook group, here are the most popular variations & additions to kotletes:
- Use half beef, half pork or 2/3 beef and 1/3 pork
- Add finely chopped onion
- Add finely chopped sauteed onion and bacon
- Instead of adding soaked crust-free bread or breadcrumbs, add grated potato or oatmeal flakes
- Add a pinch of nutmeg, ground cloves, caraway, garlic or parsley
- Roll kotletes in flour or breadcrumbs before frying
- Fry in lard instead of oil
- 500g (1 lb) pork mince
- 2 tablespoons stale breadcrumbs
- 1 egg, lightly whisked
- 2 heaped tablespoons sour cream
- salt and generous pinch of pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 head of lettuce
- 1/2 cup of buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons of sour cream
- salt for seasoning
- Combine pork, breadcrumbs, egg, sour cream, salt and pepper in a bowl.
- Roll mince mixture into balls, using around 2 tablespoons of mince mixture for each ball.
- Heat oil in a frying pan, add meatballs and slightly flatten them with a spatula (or a hand if you are brave enough).
- Fry the meatballs for around 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through.
- Thinly slice lettuce, mix with buttermilk and sour cream, season with salt.
- Serve with soft boiled potatoes.