The Cottage Smallholder

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Best melt in the mouth pork meatballs in a piquant tamarind, fresh ginger and honey sauce recipe

Photo: Pork meatballs in a delicate sweet and sour sauce

Photo: Pork meatballs in a delicate sweet and sour sauce

I love meatballs. But only the melt in the mouth variety.

Having sharpened my teeth on  ultra firm chewy meatballs, I decided never to attempt to make them myself. What was the point? Why push hardened walnut sized balls of meat onto anyone else?

Several years ago Danny’s special brother, Donagh, gave me the secret of melt in the mouth meatballs. He had served meatballs to die for and I was desperate to get his secret.
“It’s so simple. I learnt the method from the mother of my Spanish girlfriend.” He finally revealed.
I was all ears.
“Never use just mince for your meat balls. They need to be mixed with bread crumbs soaked in milk and, even if they are frozen, they will always be soft and delicious.”
The milk and bread combination sounded pretty gross but I had to try making them myself.

His recipe worked for me and meatballs have been a regular dish in the cottage kitchen since then. Donagh’s method of making meatballs is superb. So good that I totally ignore even give away cut priced supermarket Aberdeen Angus meatballs. Better to pounce on a pack of marked down mince and a loaf of white bread from the almost give away basket.

Best melt in the mouth pork meatballs in a piquant tamarind, fresh ginger and honey sauce recipe


500g of pork mince
2 tbsp of organic honey
2 chubby cloves of garlic (chopped very fine)
1 inch piece of fresh ginger (peeled and chopped very fine)
2.5 tsp of tamarind paste
1 tsp of lemon grass
Half a tsp of soy sauce
2 tbsp of oyster sauce
1-2 star anise
2 tsp of mushroom ketchup
1 tbsp of corn flour
500ml of litre of water
Quarter tsp of lemon zest.
50g of fresh white breadcrumbs
4 tbsp of milk
3 chunky bell peppers (2 red and 1 yellow) diced into 1cm cubes.


Add the milk to the breadcrumbs and mix well. Allow these to soak in before mixing the breadcrumbs through the minced pork. Then mix the beaten egg into the meatball mixture. Form 14-16 small balls the size of a large walnut. Pop them into the fridge while you make the sauce.
Dice the peppers. Peel and chop the garlic cloves and fresh ginger very fine. Bring the water to the boil, add the chopped peppers, garlic and ginger. Then add lemon zest, honey, tamarind, mushroom ketchup, star anise, oyster sauce, soy sauce and lemon grass.

When the sauce has reached simmering point add the corn flour to a large spoonful of the sauce to make a wet paste and return this to the saucepan stirring it in well. This will thicken the sauce.
Gently place the meatballs into the saucepan and simmer (lid on) for 10 minutes. Then turn the balls very gently to cook the other side and simmer for ten minutes (lid on). Simmer for a further ten minutes.
Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Serve with rice and crisp French beans.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Nemone

    Thank you so much for leaving a comment. Much appreciated.

  2. Absolutely scrumptious! I have always added breadcrumbs to meatballs, but soaking them in the milk made them much more tender than usual. I only had one green bell pepper in the house so I used that, and during the last ten minutes of cooking time I added a few chopped and de-seeded tomatoes to the sauce. Also, I didn’t have lemongrass so added extra zest. Really delicious, thank you!

  3. i TRIED THIS RECIPE LAST NIGHT. I think it is the best meal I have ever cooked and I am 76 yeaRS OLD. so very tasty. By the way I BROWNED THEM IN POLENTA BEFORE FINISHING THEM IN THE OVEN. highly recommended. Thank you Spanish Lady for sharing.

  4. Leslie

    Fiona, here in the states (at least in the non-gourmet stores) I’ve never seen mushroom ketchup. Can you give me a hint of the ingredients so I can find or alter some?

    The best meatballs I have access to here are a firmly kept family secret for which I have to trade secretarial and bookkeeping skills.

  5. We use matzoh here. I soak the sheets whole and then squeeze them out.

    will have to try the recipe.

  6. casalba

    Magic Cochin’s variation is one I can totally vouch for. Also, sometimes there are great bargains on ready made sausages – buy one get five or six free, kind of thing. Just remove the skins and substitute for the sausage meat. Already spiced and ready to go.

  7. magic cochin

    Yes, breadcrumbs are a must in meatballs – you can use wholemeal bread. And our sourdough is superb for crumbs.

    A variation is to roll the balls in polenta and gently brown in olive oil before adding the sauce and finishing in the oven partly covered.


  8. High meat content sausages, I find,are chewy and unpleasant, the affect of addition of the rusk, in cheaper sausages is obviously giving the same affect as the bread crumbs in your meat balls.

    Many thanks for your entertaining and educational words.

  9. Veronica

    oh yes, breadcrumbs in meatballs are essential! Otherwise they are horrible solid things.

    I love the picture with this post — your garden table looks so summery!

  10. Wow! I love meatballs – got to try this recipe.

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