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Ezhiki aka "Hedgehogs" Meatballs with Rice: Russian Recipes Revisited

Last month's recipe for Sour Cream Cake was quite involved, so for this month's Russian Recipes Revisited series I decided to make something simpler and also savory.

Growing up in Russia, we had ground beef often. My mom made "fancy" meatloaf by putting hard boiled eggs inside so that when you cut into the meatloaf, you would get a pretty yellow and white center.

Instead of burgers, we had "kotleti," which were a bit smaller and thinner and served without a bun and with a side of rice and mashed potatoes.

And instead of meatballs, we had "ezhiki," which in Russian means little hedgehogs. These were little balls made from ground beef with onions and rice! The grains of rice resembled the needles of the hedgehogs...or so we thought when we were little. By we I of course mean my sister and brother.

In the recipe below I decided to use ground chicken instead of beef, but you can use whichever you want. Go nuts and use pork if you wish!

Ezhiki aka "Hedgehogs" Meatballs with Rice
Makes about 40 balls

1 cup long grained rice
1 cup water
1 pound ground chicken
1 egg
1/3 cup finely chopped white onion
salt & pepper
olive oil for sauteing

1. In a small saucepan combine rice, water and a bit of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and cool the rice. You want the rice to be undercooked because it will continue to cook inside the balls ;)

2. In a bowl mix together the rest of the ingredients other than olive oil. Add the cooled rice and mix to combine.

3. Using a small scoop (about 1 tablespoon) form the balls.

4. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and saute the balls until they are brown all around. Cut into one to make sure it's cooked through. You may need to do this in batches. 

{Thank you Sangeetha for the super pretty bowl!}

You can eat these ezhiki with sauteed green beans, mashed potatoes, asparagus or even on top of a salad. You can also add them to soups!

For this soup I sauteed onions, garlic and carrots. I then added tomato paste and cooked the vegetables for a few minutes followed by water, salt & pepper and Southwestern spice. Once everything came to a boil, I added cubed potatoes and simmered the soup until the potatoes were cooked through. Then I added the meatballs and fresh parsley.

Does YOUR family have a special meatball recipe?

For previous recipes in the Russian Recipes Revisited series, check out Shuba (beet & herring salad) and Borsch.

And if you want a few more meatballs recipes, take a look at Spicy Turkey Meatballs and Albondigas.


Megan said...

The ground chicken sounds like a good swap, and I love that you put these in soup. My mom makes the best meatballs, and I can never come close!

Anna Kaplan said...

When I was growing up in Moscow, we had these often. My family always boiled them, and used raw rice - this way, the meat shrunk but the rice expanded, so the resulting meatballs really did resemble little hedgehogs. Boiling meat sounds pretty gross to me now, but I loved these as a kid!

Olga @ MangoTomato said...

Hi! Thank you for the comment. You are absolutely right: I think my mom used to boil them (or cook them directly in the soup), but I thought it'd be too messy and decided to pan saute them instead.
Thanks for stopping by!

April Cavin said...

These look delicious! I love making meatballs and always make the same Italian style meatballs for pasta. I love how versatile yours are -- a perfect comfort food for this time of year!

April Cavin said...

These look delicious! I love to make meatballs and always make the same Italian style to go with pasta. I like the versatility of the ones you made -- perfect comfort food for this time of year!