This is the first in a new series on my blog called ‘A Malteser’s Kitchen’, where I ask Maltese culinary bloggers to share their versions of traditional Maltese recipes. The first in the series is by the lovely Miriam.
There’s so much joy in recreating traditional recipes, especially the ones most of us grew up with. The smells and tastes will take you back to those childhood carefree days, when your mother or perhaps even your grandmother was preparing this dish. You’d just run into the kitchen after a morning of playing with your friends and you were presented with a plate of pulpetti. I wonder what kind of memories the next generation will have of these traditional dishes.
I chatted to a couple of people about how they like to make their pulpetti and it turns out that, like with most traditional dishes, there are various ways to prepare them and opinions will vary about which is the ‘right’ way.
This is my version that will make about 8 portions. The measurements may easily be halved to make a smaller amount.
You will need:
- 1kg minced beef/pork mixture
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 slices worth of breadcrumbs
- 100 grams ground parmesan
- half a cup of beef stock
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Wash your hands well, using a nail brush if necessary. You’re going to be mixing the ingredients, including the raw meat, with your hands.
Start with the minced meat, eggs, parsley, parmesan and garlic in a large bowl. Mash the mixture with your hands until it looks uniform. Next add the breadcrumbs and combine. Gradually add the stock a few tablespoons at a time. You don’t want to add too much, make sure that all the stock is absorbed before adding more and stop adding stock when you deem that the mixture is saturated. You’ll want to be able to form the pulpetti in your hands without them being too sticky. I didn’t add any salt at all, but I opted for a pinch of ground pepper.
When the mixture is done, roll a small handful (about 2 tablespoons worth) between your hands and press to form a compact ball. Use as is or flatten prior to cooking.
When forming keep in mind that the pulpetti will shrink whilst cooking. Oddly enough, opinions will differ even when it comes to the shape of pulpetti – some people will prefer shaping them into balls and cooking like so and others will make flattened patties similar to small burgers. Keep in mind that you’ll want these to cook through and that the thickness will influence the cooking time. In my case I preferred the flattened kind to prevent the outside from drying out whilst the centre cooked. A part of this reasoning was also greatly influenced by the fact that this is the way my mother always made them.
Heat up the olive oil in a pan. You’ll want to keep it on low heat throughout since olive oil must not be allowed to reach high temperatures. Give it a few minutes to heat up before cooking the meat patties a few at a time. Let them brown before turning over to cook on the other side. Set aside on a plate covered in paper napkins to absorb any excess oil.
I served these with a tomato and garlic sauce which is easy and quick to make. I preferred to opt for something rather simple to go with the pulpetti. To make this cook a couple of minced garlic cloves in a pan. Add half a dozen deseeded and chopped tomatoes or a can of peeled tomatoes. Add a teaspoon of sugar or a tablespoon of apple cider to remove the bitterness. Add salt and pepper to taste and let it simmer for at least 20 minutes. You can make this while the pulpetti cook and it will be done by the time they are all ready.
After sharing ideas with others, I found out that some people opt for corned beef rather than minced beef or pork. Others still use milk and flour instead of breadcrumbs and stock. I’ve tasted some with potatoes used instead of flour or breadcrumbs. The list goes on, with the crux of the matter probably revolving around what’s available or what your family is used to.
For the vegetarians out there, there is a different version of pulpetti to enjoy. Substitute the meat with steamed cauliflower or broccoli and cook in the same manner. It would be interesting to serve the meat and vegetable pulpetti together with different sauces. Pulpetti party, anyone?