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.
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.
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.