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South Africans love their padkos and no long road trip is complete without a Tupperware filled with frikkadels. These traditional South African meatballs are super versatile, easy on the budget and frikken lekker hot or cold. It’s almost unfair to label a frikkadel as padkos. Like its shape it is the perfect all-rounder – it can be eaten anywhere, anytime and anyhow as well – fingers or fork – depending on the occasion.

For many South Africans the word frikkadel conjures up childhood memories of the annual drive down to the sea for the December school holidays.  Or driving up to the Kruger National park during the midyear break. Part of the fun of the long trips were tucking into the padkos at those special pullover stops next to the road landmarked by a line of tall trees. Remember the round concrete tables and seats, sometimes painted white? What a welcome sight after being cooped up in the car for hours! These picnic spots were usually in what felt like the middle of nowhere and gave everyone a chance to stretch the legs before tucking into the tasty frikkies, egg sandwiches, Simba chips and finishing off with sweet coffee from the flask. And then it was back on the road again.

Frikkadels: The History

There are almost as many possibilities to the origin of the word as there are variations to meatball dishes worldwide. It is said the word frikkadel is most likely derived from the French word fricadelle (although meatballs are called boulettes in French). Similar sounding is the Dutch traditional snack frikandel (which looks more hot dog than meatball), the Belgium frikadel, the German frikandellen and the Danish Frikadeller.   

What the F…rikkadel

Back in 2010 a hugely entertaining TV ad campaign was launched by morrisjones&co for Debonairs Pizza in South Africa and the saying ‘What The Frikkadel’ became part of the daily vocabulary of everyone in South Africa.

Many variations of the frikkadel notwithstanding, what sets the traditional South African frikkadel apart from its meatball cousins are three things: the meat is beef mince; the bread is soaked in milk; and the dish is baked in the oven. Just like ouma used to make it. One of our favourite recipes comes from the foodblog melkkos-merlot. And if you want to completely relive the nostalgia trip down memory lane then you should serve the frikkadels with rice or mashed potato, gravy and gem squash halves filled with peas. Hah, you have forgotten those gems, haven’t you?

Frikkadel Recipe

What you need to make the frikkadels:

For irresistible, easy eating meat balls, you’ll need the following:

  • ¼ cup milk
  • extra large pinch of white pepper
  • ¾ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • large pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 tsp salt plus one extra large pinch
  • 2 slices white bread, crusts cut off
  • 800g beef mince (not super lean, you need a bit of fat)
  • ½ cup of onion, grated not chopped
  • 3 tbs melted sheep fat (what gran used to call dripping – you can leave it out, but it would be a pity)
  • ½ cup water
  • butter

How to make the frikkadels:

What’s the secret to a good frikkadel? A feather-light beauty with a crumbly texture. Which is why it is important to have a light touch. It would make sense to use your hands and smoosh things up (yes, it’s a word) as it gives you excellent results. But when you make frikkadels use a fork, work fast and don’t fiddle with the meat too much.

Here’s how:

  • Combine the salt, spices and milk.
  • Add the bread to the mixture and allow it to soak up all the milk.
  • Take a fork and use it to break the bread up finely. Add this mixture to the mince. With this, add the melted fat and onion and use the fork to combine it all together. Whatever you do, don’t compact the mince.
  • Smear the bottom of an ovenproof baking dish with butter (gran’s rectangular Pyrex dish is great for this).
  • Use your hands to lightly shape large frikkadels.
  • We do the picky food stylist thing and use my electronic kitchen scale to make perfectly even 100g frikkadels.
  • Place them in the baking dish and top each frikkadel with a small dot of butter.
  • Add ½ cup of water to the baking dish and roast in a 190 degree Celsius oven for 35-40 minutes, basting the frikkadels once or twice with the pan juices – if it’s cooking dry, add a touch more water.
  • Turn your oven on grill for the last five minutes to help them brown but do keep an eye on it so they do not burn.
  • Remove the frikkadels from the oven and cover with tinfoil to keep warm.
  • Add a cup of water to the cooking liquid and create a thick and delicious gravy by thickening it with a teaspoon of both cornflour and Bisto dissolved in a tablespoon of cold water. Yes, I know, this is seriously uncool and many a cook would scoff. But this is the way gran made it, and we loved it.

This frikkadel recipe makes 10 x 100g ones.

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