Random recipe #17: Albondigas

You know how when you’re a kid you go through a stage of wondering if you’re really a princess and hoping that your real parents will turn up? I know that wasn’t just me, because a few years ago I interviewed a couple who were convinced they were Russian royalty and they had told their nine-year-old daughter that her real name was really Princess Anastasia or something. Nevermind that the poor kid was getting bullied mercilessly at school because of it, her parents were too busy waiting for the gold ingots to turn up in the post to notice.
But I digress. Lately I’ve been wondering if my life would have turned out different if I had a Mexican grandmother. Daniella Germain does and she’s written My Abuela’s Table – a really beautiful book of said grandmother’s recipes.
My copy of this book happens to be in the middle of the middle shelf of cookbooks, so I chose the middle recipe from it for June’s Random Recipes.

Forgive me, but I didn’t exactly follow the recipe in My Abuela’s Kitchen, not least because it has ‘2 chicken cubes’ listed in the ingredients. I don’t put chicken stock cubes in anything, so I’m not about to start crumbling them into meatballs. Perhaps it’s not so cool to have a Mexican grandmother after all. Here’s my version of Daniella’ Germain’s grandmother’s meatballs in chipotle sauce. She cooks the meatballs in the sauce, but I baked mine in the oven and served the sauce separately. This serves four.

Chipotle-tomato sauce
Make the sauce first and let it simmer away on the stove while you prepare the meatballs.

2Tbsp olive oil
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tins tomatoes
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, then gently saute the onion and garlic until golden. Tip in the tomatoes and chipotle peppers. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and let simmer gently for at least 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally, squishing the tomatoes against the side of the pan, until the sauce is dark and thick.

1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
a splash of milk
350g beef mince
250g pork mince
2 eggs
finely grated zest of a lemon
a handful of finely grated Parmesan
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a large baking tray with nonstick paper.
Put the breadcrumbs in a large bowl and pour over a splash of milk to moisten them. Add all the other ingredients and mix lightly with your hands. Roll the mixture into small balls and place on the prepared tray. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until they are crispy on the outside and cooked through. Give the tray a shake halfway through cooking to turn them over. Serve with a pool of chipotle-tomato sauce.



  1. June 24, 2012 / 7:13 pm

    wow… that told Grandma!… I love a good meat ball but haven't made one for ages… the Mexican twist gives them some latin heat which is superb I bet!… (loving the 'smear' of sauce on your plat… very 'mastercheffy') …when I was a kid I was convinced I was adopted… I needed something… my family was so ordinary I really wanted a good reason for me to fail at exams!… thank you so much for taking part this month and thank you for your lovely kind words on my blog x

  2. June 25, 2012 / 6:06 am

    i have a confession to make… i have chicken oxo cubes in my pantry … sorry lucy … x

  3. Anonymous
    June 25, 2012 / 7:07 am

    where would i be likely to find chipotle peppers in adobo sauce? deli, online, specialty food place? x

  4. June 25, 2012 / 7:17 am

    Hello Anonymous – I can buy chipotle peppers in adobo sauce at the supermarket (and not a very exciting New Zealand supermarket at that) – let me know where you are shopping and I'll see if I can help.

  5. June 25, 2012 / 10:35 am

    Great idea to pick out middle book of middle shelf – only it's a bit more difficult when your books are scattered around the house in various locations including chairs and floor – oops!

    Love Mexican food.

  6. June 25, 2012 / 9:16 pm

    Meatballs are the ultimate home comfort as far as I can tell. Nice dish. I don't remember ever thinking I was a princess. When I was about 8 I misunderstood something that I'd overheard and thought I was related to Cliff Richard for a while. I suppose that's quite similar in a way.

  7. June 26, 2012 / 5:02 am

    Was ooh-ing over my friend's copy of this book recently…very lovely indeed

  8. June 30, 2012 / 12:02 pm

    Albondigas and vinto tinto at a tapas bar in the Spanish sun … my idea of heaven. Yeah, okay. I can make my own and play make-believe on my sunny terrace … as close as I'll get to the fantsy for a while! Thanks for the recipe! I, too, will be leaving out the chicken cubes (I'll save them for a more conventional use …)

  9. July 1, 2012 / 5:02 pm

    What an amazing name…love it. I might try this with turkey mince as I don't eat red meat/ I think it would work ok. That chipotle sauce sounds amazing.

  10. August 9, 2012 / 10:08 am

    Thanks for posting about my cookbook. I have to say, leaving out the stock cubes is of course up to you, but it definitely adds a lovely flavour to the Albondigas. At least substitute with salt or they might be a bit tasteless.

    x Daniella (the author of My Abuela's Table)

    p.s. Trust me…it is cool to have a Mexican grandma…

  11. August 29, 2013 / 2:07 am

    I agree with Daniella… I cook them her way every time and they have been very popular – my family and friends are always asking me to make them. the only thing I do differently is rather than crumble in a stock cube I sprinkle in some stock powder. I can't imagine not cooking them in the sauce!!!

  12. August 29, 2013 / 2:11 am

    PS – My Abeuela's Table is my FAVOURITE cookbook! I catered a party for 60 people using only recipes from this book and it was a huge success – I highly recommend it to anyone looking for simple but authentic Mexican recipes.

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