Food, Meat, Recipes

“Porcupine” Meatballs with Eggplants and Tomatoes

Porcupine Meatballs Ronit Penso

Adding rice to meatballs is an old tradition, which can be found in many cuisines around the world. The “porcupine” version is also known in quite a few of them, especially in the Persian and Chinese cuisines.
However, in many of these versions the whimsical “porcupine” effect, i.e. the rice grains protruding noticeably, is not always as pronounced as you can see here.

The secret ingredient for creating this effect is in using long grain rice, such as Basmati rice. When cooked, the long rice grains stick out of the meatballs, looking like small spikes, which brings to mind the porcupine spines.

I’ve decided to cook the meatballs with lots of vegetables, in order to create a complete meal in one pot. The result is hearty and warm, yet not too heavy, which makes it ideal for lunch or light dinner.
Try it and see for yourself.

A few notes:
* I’ve used grass-fed Bison meat, which is highly recommended, yet not as easy to find as other meats. If you can’t find it, good quality beef, veal, pork or a combination of, can be used instead.
* As with any ground meats, I recommend buying a piece of meat and grinding it at home. This way you have full control over the freshness and type of meat you’re using.
* The eggplants I’ve used here are seedless long ones, with thin skin. If you can’t find this type, use the smallest regular eggplants you can get.

Makes: 6-8
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

For the chopped vegetables mix:
1 large white onion, cut into quarters
1 small jalapeno pepper, de-seeded
2 large garlic cloves
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly cut
1 ½ ribs celery, roughly cut
1 large scallion
For the meatballs:
2/3 cup of the chopped vegetables mix
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 lb (450 grams) ground bison meat (see notes)
¼ cup Basmati rice
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp salt
For the cooked vegetables:

2 Tbs olive oil
4 long purple eggplants, cubed (or about 3 cups of cubed small eggplants. See notes)
¼ tsp cumin powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 can (14 oz, 410 grams) diced tomatoes
1½ cups beef or chicken stock
2 tsp honey or sugar


1. The chopped vegetables mix: place the vegetables in a food processor, fitted with the metal blade, and chop roughly.
2. The meatballs: measure 2/3 cup of the chopped vegetables mix and place in a large bowl. Add the rest of ingredients and mix well. Create 20-22 golf ball sized meatballs from the mixture.
3. The cooked vegetables: heat the oil in a large shallow pot on medium-high heat. Add the rest of the chopped vegetables mix, mix and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggplants, cumin, salt and pepper, mix and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes, diced tomatoes, stock and honey. Bring to the boil and lower the heat to medium.
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4. Add the meatballs, in one layer, and cook until the sauce is on the verge of boiling, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low and partially cover the pot. Cook for 25 minutes, taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Uncover the pot and cook for 10 minutes longer, until the meatballs are cooked through and the rice protruding from them. Let rest in the pot for 10 minutes before serving.
Porcupine Meatballs Ronit PensoPorcupine Meatballs Ronit PensoPorcupine Meatballs Ronit PensoPorcupine Meatballs Ronit Penso Porcupine Meatballs Ronit Penso

65 thoughts on ““Porcupine” Meatballs with Eggplants and Tomatoes”

  1. The only Basmati rice I have is brown Basmati. Do you think that would work, or take too long to get the rice to an edible texture? Looks like about 50 minutes of overall cooking time. That might be enough, yah?

    I did tomato cous cous last night, and it was very good. I had my choice of asparagus and carrots for the vegetable, and stooopid me, I shredded up the carrots instead of having a nice contrast with the cous cous and asparagus!! There was pul-lenty of cous cous leftover, so will do it right tonight, with some of the leftover roast chicken. We ate just the legs and thighs last night, so have a couple of meals of breast meat left. Made new cranberry orange relish, too, so will serve it all up tonight to dine at Downton Abbey!

    Saved a bit of the shredded carrots to go with some shredded cabbage to make a colorful Cole slaw to accompany lunch today. May get brave and put a few shreds of Mexican scallions in the slaw.

    Virtual hugs,


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sounds like you have your whole week of food planned. All sound good!

      I’ve never tried this recipe with brown rice. The cooking time for the meatballs alone is only 40 minutes, not 50. If using brown rice, I would cook it longer, though not sure the meatballs will not get too dry by the time the rice is done…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Food plan? Hahahahaha! It’s like a short order hash house around here. I haul out all the goodies at mealtimes, and Gary “points and grunts” for what he wants to eat. Sometimes there is my “guiding hand” to assist in his choices!

        We like a bed of fluffy rice, so probably best to prepare that separately. The other seasonings are interesting, though, so will keep track and give it a whirl. ;->

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Linda. I’m glad you liked the dish.:)
      How interesting about your grandmother. I agree it’s not an Irish thing to add rice to meatballs. I guess she kept an open mind when it came to cooking and adopted whatever she liked. That’s a good heritage to have! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This updated version of the old porcupine meatball recipes sounds wonderful. My mother used to make porcupine meatballs in chili sauce. I liked her recipe as a kid–but not so much as an adult. .

    Liked by 2 people

  3. These are so creative, Ronit, and I bet more than a few parents will be preparing your meatballs as a means of sneaking veggies into their little ones’ diets. Besides, who can refuse something with “porcupine” in its name? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow! These are so super creative! I do like making warm, hearty dishes like this. My husband loves meatballs so I’ll have to try your creative way of serving them 🙂


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