Posted by: Erica Retrochef | December 5, 2011

Porcupine Meat Balls

Just a quick disclaimer before you read any further — that does not mean “balls of porcupine meat,” it means “meatballs that look like porcupines.” I’m not cooking a porcupine this week.

Now that’s cleared up, let’s take a look at what we’re trying to make and eat this week…

This is one that has been up for consideration a number of times, actually, but we’ve always either settled on something better or worse. While these meat balls are pretty weird looking, they aren’t quite as outlandish as some things we’ve made — they fall into that middle ground of odd, but not horrifyingly bizarre. I am actually not so much freaked out by the “porcupine” rice bits, as I am by the weird glossy coating the meatballs seem to have. Food just isn’t supposed to glisten like that.


*00 g (1 lb.) fine hamburger mince
*50 g (8 oz.) sausage meat
*50 (1 cup) long grain rice, uncooked
1 onion, grated or finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 teaspoon mixed herbs
1 tablespoon chutney, chopped
1 egg, beaten
Oil for frying
1 can tomato soup
250 ml (1 cup) water
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
Parsley sprigs for garnish

Place hamburger mince, sausage meat, rice, onion, carrot, mixed herbs, chutney, and egg in a mixing bowl and mix together.

Shape mixture into balls, approximately 4 cm (1-1/2 in.) in diameter, with clean, cool, wet hands.

Heat 1 cm (1/2 in.) oil in a large heavy frying pan and fry meat balls until browned on all sides, turning frequently. Drain well on kitchen paper towels.

Place fried meatballs in a casserole or ovenproof dish.

Mix soup with water, lemon rind and juice and pour over meatballs.

Bake, without a lid, in a moderate oven at 180 deg. C (350 deg. F) for 45 minutes or until tender.

Serve hot garnished with parsley sprigs accompanied by creamed potatoes and glazed carrots. Serves 6.

So upon a closer reading, it’s not the rice that’s going to be the oddball ingredient here — it’s chutney. Now, I don’t really know much about chutney. It is an Indian condiment, and it can be wet or dry, spicy or mild, made with fruits or vegetables. I’ve often seen it with takeout or at restaurants, but never really eaten it. So for this, I settled for a moderately inexpensive “Major Grey Chutney,” which is a mildly spiced mango chutney. It tastes like somewhat vinegary jam, or maybe mincemeat.

In other random news, I got exactly 1.00 pounds of ground chuck at the meat counter. Maybe I should go play the lottery.

This isn’t a very inspiring assortment of ingredients in the bowl. (And I even forgot to add the blob of chutney at this point, it had to be mixed in later when I remembered.)

I started mixing the meat and stuff with a wooden spoon, but quickly gave in and switch to hand-mixing — it wasn’t going to come together otherwise.

Besides, I had to shape the meatballs by hand, so I ended up with meat-coated hands anyway.

While it might be “nourishing and economical,” it isn’t low-fat. And while I don’t try to entirely eliminate fat from my diet, I do try to use a little bit less than THIS much.

The meatballs smelled very good when finished frying. I kept having to remind myself they were still raw on the inside and I really shouldn’t try eating them yet. (Plus all that rice must still be crunchy…)

They almost fit in one layer in the casserole dish — hopefully a few sticking out of the sauce won’t be a problem. Speaking of which, the sauce tastes like very watery tomato soup. The lemon probably helps it somewhat, but it’s awfully diluted.

And finally, a nice helping with a side of mashed potatoes. (I didn’t get around to making any glazed carrots. Sorry.)

These were so close to being delicious that I was really disappointed. The chutney and Italian herb mix gave the meatballs a really good flavor; you couldn’t tell there was onion and carrot in there at all. The sauce, after cooking, had a wonderful citrus freshness that brightened up the tomato flavor and accentuated the meatballs nicely.

So what went wrong, you might well ask? The rice, while not completely raw, was still very al dente. It really ruined the texture, and it was hard to get past the crunch and enjoy the rest of the meatball. If the rice had been half-cooked to start, it could have worked (or possibly leave the rice out altogether, although that might make the texture odd in other ways). While those little spines definitely did remind us of a porcupine, I doubt it’s what the recipe creator really intended. (Who would do that to food on purpose?)

But I did learn that chutney helps make some darn good meatballs!

Advertisement from 1976 in “New Idea” preserved online in the Flickr stream of glen.h


  1. Hmm- was this a 70s recipe, and if so would they be expecting a more polished ‘quick cook’ style of rice than that which we use now?

    I’ve found similar with modern, proper Italian pasta v stodgy macaroni in 70s recipes.

    It would work with parboiled rice I guess- or just put the rice round the outside so the loose sauce can get at it more? The meat part sounds delicious.

    • We also wondered if they really meant parboiled rice. However, I don’t think so, for two reasons. First, the recipe did specify uncooked long grain rice, and housewives of old really did know the difference between uncooked rice and Minute Rice. Second, without the somewhat crunchy rice “spines,” there would have been nothing at all in this dish suggestive of a porcupine.

      I thought they weren’t bad meatballs; in fact, I had a second helping after the kids went to bed. However, while they were pretty flavorful, I do not think they benefited from the weird rice.

  2. I would have been surprised by this, too – surely forty-five minutes of simmering in citrus-y tomato soup after the rice had been fried would have made it somewhat softened! But, usually meatballs are made of leftovers and odds and ends in my house, so the rice would have been cooked… Yours definitely LOOK better than the ones in the picture!

  3. This ain’t ‘retro’, and ‘retro’ means OLD!!

    This was one of our old ‘stand by’ recipes from (gasp) when we first got married in the (mumbling the word early) 1970’s. (…does that…make ME old)

    AND yes, the rice does stay a little ‘crunchy’. I’ve massaged this thing 7 ways ta’ Sunday, and they either fall apart (Uncle Ben’s), they cooked long enough for the rice to cook and the meat ball cohesion was lost (we called THAT dish Rice and Meat Goop) or the rice is just bloody ‘crunchy’. But, having said all that, I last cooked this probably in (mumbling again) 1980 or ’81.

    Since then, I’ve gained a little more expertise in that room with all the sharp things, those round metal jobs with black handles and all that other cooking ‘stuff’. I’m going to try this AGAIN, maybe tonight with the g’sons for guinea pigs (nyahaha, he smirked, twirling his mustache) but here’s the 8th new massage beings it’s Monday!

    I’m going to par boil my rice for about 7 or 8 minutes, spread it on a chilled sheet pan and cool it completely before commencing with the original recipe.

    I will report on the success of this method.

  4. This was always the food that Dad made when Dad had to make something for dinner, and it is now a staple at my house.
    That said, I use a very different recipe:

    1 1/2 lbs ground beef
    1/2 cup rice
    1 t salt
    1/2 t pepper
    1 T minced onion
    1 can tomato soup
    1/2 cup water

    Wash rice thoroughly. Combine meat, rice, salt, pepper, and onion. Shape into small balls. Heat soup and water. Drop meatballs into mixture and cover and cook.

    I find that if you use a pressure cooker to make them, the rice comes out fine.

  5. […] recall rice with most meatloaves. In fact, the last time I combined rice in ground beef was Porcupine Meat Balls. (We made sure the rice was thoroughly cooked this […]

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