This is a dish I got to know just recently. It’s known under a variety of names in French and Dutch. Most of them boil down to meatballs from Liège or meatballs made in rabbit sauce.
Liège is a city in Belgium and this recipe uses “Sirop de Liège” among other things. It is a thick dark jelly like syrup made from apples and pears. I use “appelstroop” made from just apples, which works fine.
The rabbit sauce isn’t made with rabbits. It’s a sauce in which rabbit is commonly prepared. Its main ingredients are syrup, onions and vinegar.
As with lots of regional dishes, there are many varieties. This is my version. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
- Ingredients for the meatballs:
- 500 gr – 17.5 ounces half mince beef and half mince pork
- 1 egg
- bread crumbs
- Small handful of parsley, chopped
- Nutmeg, freshly grated
- Salt and pepper
- 1 shallot or ¼ onion, finely chopped
- Ingredients for the sauce:
- 2 onions, coarsely chopped
- 3-4 Tbs white vinegar
- 2 Tbs Dutch or Belgian stroop or molasses
- 1 Tbs brown sugar
- 6 juniper berries
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ ts thyme
- ¼ ts oregano
- 1 cup water
- Optional: corn starch dissolved in water for thickening
Soften the chopped shallot or onion in a bit of butter until translucent and golden. Transfer to a large bowl and let it cool.
Add the minced meat, egg, parsley, salt, pepper and grated nutmeg to taste. Mix well and add the breadcrumbs a little at a time until you get a firm mixture. Firm enough to shape meatballs that aren’t too loose.
Roll the balls as big as a golf ball and fry until brown in a bit of butter. They don’t need to be cooked through.
I use my Creuset casserole to fry and stew the balls. Make sure you have a pot with a heavy bottom and a lid.
While the meatballs are browning, chopped the 2 onions. Remove the balls from the pan. Add a bit of extra butter and fry the onions until golden.
Add the oregano, thyme, bay leaves and juniper berries. Add the balls back into the pan along with a cup of water. Add 3 tablespoons of vinegar, 2 tablespoons of stroop or molasses and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Let the stroop and sugar dissolve and bring to a boil.
Turn down the heat and cover with the lid. Softly simmer for half an hour. Turn the meatballs over, cover with the lid and simmer for another half an hour.
The stroop or molasses gives the meatballs a nice dark color. For a thicker sauce add the dissolved corn starch and boil until thickened.
If you like the sauce a bit more sour, add the extra vinegar. For more sweetness, add more sugar or syrup.
Traditionally these meatballs are served with fries and a salad. We had these with plain boiled potatoes, but a potato puree or potatoes mashed with vegetables (stamppot, colcannon or champ) would also be delicious.