Bite - Vogelnestjes
Embarrassing but true, the first time I saw this typically Flemish dish I asked myself “how they got the egg in there”. I was mesmerised by these meatballs with a surprise at the centre, and even more so after tasting them. Not only are vogelnestjes (little bird’s nests) a fun and easy dish, they are scrumptious, especially when served with a Madeira sauce and a side of mashed potatoes.
A similar food in the UK is the Scotch egg, usually eaten cold with pickles or a salad. And in the Netherlands they also eat vogelnestjes, but more as a snack. The Flemish version is warm and forms the basis for a hearty meal.
Vogelnestjes can be prepared in a few different ways: deep fried, pan fried or in the oven. I tried them all. Perhaps not surprising is that the least healthy method (in the fryer) gave the best result. This is mostly because when fried the meatballs form a nice crunchy outer layer, adding an extra texture contrast. The result is, in all cases, yummy: juicy meat on the outside, firm egg white and soft yolk on the inside.
Ingredients (for two):
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 whole raw egg
White of 1 egg
600g minced meat
Salt and pepper
1/2 litre beef bouillon
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 dl Madeira wine
First prepare the sauce. Sauté chopped onions and mushrooms in butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add flour and let cook for a few minutes before slowly pouring in the beef bouillon, stirring all the while. Next, add the tomato paste, thyme and bay leaf. Let simmer over low heat for 10 minutes before adding the wine.
While the sauce is simmering, make the mince-meat, mixing the meat, the raw egg and bread crumbs, plus herbs if desired (paprika and parsley both work nicely). Salt and pepper to taste. Hard-boil three eggs for eight to 10 minutes. After cooling and peeling, cover each hard-boiled egg with the mince. Roll and pat with your hands until the egg is fully encased. Finally, roll each meatball in a bit of raw egg white, followed by a thin layer of bread crumbs.
For the stove-top version, brown the vogelnestjes on all sides in butter before adding to the Madeira sauce. Cover and let simmer about 20 minutes over low heat.
Alternatively, place the vogelnestjes in an oven at 220°C for about 30 minutes, spooning melted butter over them from time to time to prevent them drying out.
Better yet, drop them in a fryer at 180°C for about 10 minutes or until they float to the top. Cut each vogelnestje in half before serving with the Madeira sauce and mashed potatoes or fries.