Thursday, September 12, 2013

Porcupine Balls

I open the deep freezer with a big sucking whoosh.  I peer into its disorganized shelves and start rooting around for something that looks like it might want to be dinner.  Ah, ground beef.  We haven’t had Salisbury steaks in a while.  “Come with me, my minced friend,” I say.  Now for a starch and a veg.  The veg is easy because I have salad fixings.  But starch-wise, we just had potatoes last night and pasta the night before, so that leaves couscous – a possibility but, nah – or rice.  But rice would require gravy.  And if you are making Salisbury steak with gravy, you gotta have mushrooms in it.  Hey, I don’t make these rules up.  They just are.  And I have no mushrooms.  So.  So.  Let’s think.  And then suddenly, it pops into my head.  A meal I haven’t made or eaten or even thought of for a very long time.  Where it came from, I do not know.  Porcupine balls!   They are relatively quick and certainly easy.  They are a great weeknight meal and I almost always have all the ingredients on hand.  And kids love them.  More’s the pity, I have no kids left at home.  But never mind.  You might.  Porcupine balls, it is!

Disclaimer:  No actual porcupines were harmed in the making of this dish.  

Photo credit: Michael Richert 

Yay for all you organized types who plan ahead, but this is often how the dinner menu gets decided at our house.  Raise your hand if you do the same.  Ha!  I knew I liked you!

For the porcupine balls:
About 1 lb or 500g ground beef
1/2 small purple onion – about 1 1/4 oz or 35g
1 egg
1 beef stock cube
A few good grinds of fresh black pepper
1 cup or 180g white Basmati or other long grained rice

For the cooking sauce:
1 14 oz or 400g can chopped tomatoes in juice
2 generous tablespoons or 60g tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 -1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (depending on your taste)
1 large clove garlic

For optional garnish:  chopped parsley or cilantro

Using a hand blender, purée the onion and beef cube with the egg.  Add in the black pepper.

Pour the puréed mixture into the ground beef and mix well.  Then tip in the rice and mix thoroughly.

Roll the meat/rice mixture into small balls.  I divide these using my cookie dough scoop and then roll them smooth.   Set aside.

Put the first five sauce ingredients into a heavy pan with a tight fitting lid, along with some water.  If you use the tomato can to measure the water, about half a can will do.  Grate the garlic into the pan.

With the pan over a medium flame, bring the sauce to a boil.  Stir occasionally.  This should take just a few minutes.

Carefully immerse the meatballs in the sauce.  Do not burn yourself!  Give the pan a little shake so the meatballs will work their way to the bottom.

Top up with more water, until meatballs are almost covered.

Bring to a boil once more and then simmer, covered tightly for 30 minutes.  Set a timer.  During the first 10-15 minutes of the cooking time, pick the pot up with oven mitts occasionally and give it a gentle shimmy.  Do NOT open the lid.

When the timer goes off, turn off the stove and leave the lid on until you are ready to serve but another 15-20 minutes would be good.  NO peeking.

When you finally open the lid, the rice will have cooked and swollen out of the meatballs, turning them into, voilà, porcupine balls.  Your starch and meat all in one neat package.  Serve with salad or the vegetable of your choice.


Note:  My backdrop material was created by my talented younger daughter.  It can be seen in its almost entirety here.  


  1. See there, Ruthy! I knew I liked you! I like to have a plan, really I do. It just doesn't happen as often as I want it to. On the other hand, I am a master procrastinator and work well under pressure. So there's that.

  2. This is cool. I'm going to try it. My mother used to mix rice in with her ground beef filling for stuffed cabbage rolls and reminds me of those. :)

  3. Stacy, Love this recipe. Will definitely surprise my crew with this one, and start a new tradition for our new granddaughter when she is ready! Thanks :)

  4. I have never heard of these! How interesting! I have to say I am a meticulous meal planner because I don't get home in time from work to cook on weeknights. I plan Saturday morning, then grocery shop, then cook all weekend for leftovers the three of us can take for lunch, and quick meals hubby can make when he gets home with our daughter. I love this! It is kind of like my stuffed cabbage without the cabbage!

  5. Your new grandbaby is ADORABLE, Lizann! Hope your family enjoys the porcupine balls.

  6. Okay, I have to make these some day just because of the name (and perhaps because the look mighty good too).

  7. I love that backdrop material. Gorgeous colour combination. Your daughter is very talented! The 'porcupine' name made me laugh, love it! It's definitely very fitting, in reflection upon the little rice spikes. They sound delicious! x

  8. Very talented daughter. And the food looks pretty talented too!

  9. Haha I've never heard of these...but I kind of love the name!

  10. It is a funny name, Renee, but they are very tasty!

  11. Thank you, Laura! She is amazingly talented. So now you see why I had to send her back, even though I wanted to keep her home with me. :)

    The little porcupines were delicious!

  12. My sister accused me of making the name up but, sadly, I cannot take credit for it. Porcupine balls have been around for quite a while.

  13. Such great comfort food! My Nana used to make these all the time and I haven't thought of them in years - I need to make these for Rocket!

  14. Oh yes - I can already see that! As I sit here typing I've got the two dogs (jealous) on one side and Rocket with his head on my shoulder on the other watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives which is one of his favorites! I think the host looks like a carnival to him. MPE is out cleaning the garage and a brisket is in the smoker.......AND the kids are doing my grocery shopping for me. All is right with the world!!

  15. I've never heard of Porcupine Balls before but they look great! And yes, that's exactly how dinner gets made in our house too especially Sunday and Monday nights for some reason.


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