Meatballs with Egg Yolk

Balls of meat in a light brown sauce
Meatballs with Egg Yolk

Recipe Source: Anonymous.  A Treatise of Portuguese Cuisine from the 15th Century.  F. Gomes, trans.  This text is available online at or here.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention this again.  I’m putting together a new class.  While most of my classes focus on one area of the world this one is a little different.  It takes a look at meatballs in various medieval cuisines.  It’s a bit of a departure for me, but it’s a lot of fun.  It gives me an excuse to tiptoe through a bunch of different resources and to look at a few different cultures whose cuisines don’t have enough resources available in translation for me to go in-depth.  The problem of course is that my daughter hates the idea of meatballs.  She eats them if I call them “meat.”  In this case the presence of egg was an added incentive and she did indeed eat quite a bit of “meat.”  (I met a woman this past weekend whose son, who is nearly of an age with Viking Baby, is her exact opposite and would only be willing to eat meat in loaf or ball form.  You could not call it “beef.”  Kids are weird, and possibly insane.)

At any rate, I didn’t make a lot of changes to the original.  It called for pork or mutton.  I can’t do pork and mutton is not readily available but lamb is, and lamb is at least from the same animal as mutton.  I didn’t have any mutton broth (it’s not exactly readily available) and I did have an open container of vegetable broth hanging around the fridge.  I used that instead.  The recipe called for an herb called “cheiro-verde,” which the translator was unable to translate exactly.  A quick trip through Google got mixed results which can be summed up in two ways: mixed parsley and scallions or just parsley.  I’m not sure which would have been more appropriate in fifteenth century Portugal but I didn’t actually have any scallions so that made my decision easier.  (Scallions would have been delicious though.)

These were delicious and I don’t feel like I’m bragging when I say so.  I loved them, my husband loved them (and he doesn’t care for egg as a general rule) and my daughter loved them.  I made them ahead of time and reheated them; they reheated just fine.  You can absolutely do this yourself, they are not at all complicated or difficult.

Meatballs with Egg Yolk (serves 4 as dinner; approx. $2.71/serving)

1 pound ground lamb

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 generous pinch saffron threads, crumbled

4 hard boiled egg yolks, cut into eighths

1/2 large bunch parsley, chopped

2 – 3 cups vegetable broth

1 1/2 sticks butter


  • Mixing bowl
  • Plate
  • Large, deep saute pan or saucepan with lid
  1. Combine the lamb, spices and salt in the mixing bowl.  Knead very well with clean hands to combine.
  2. Form the meat into small balls – not too small, but not too large.  Think about the size of a walnut.
  3. Gently form a depression with your thumb and carefully put a piece of egg yolk inside.  Carefully re-shape the meatball around it so that the meat completely engulfs the yolk.
  4. Repeat until all of the meatballs and yolks are used.
  5. Melt the butter over relatively low heat in the saute pan with the parsley.
  6. Add the meatballs very gently and brown on all sides.
  7. Add the broth and bring to a simmer.  If you are serving right away the lesser amount should suffice, although the original does specify that the sauce should be generous so loading up on the broth would not be out of place.
  8. Cover and cook until the meatballs are cooked through.
  9. Serve with lots of the pan sauce.

6 thoughts on “Meatballs with Egg Yolk”

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