Of all the parts to my two Thanksgiving meals, this was my favourite. In childhood I didn’t celebrate any holidays and was kept away from my extended family due to a restrictive religion, so any traditions I have, I made up on my own, as an adult. In an effort to try to incorporate something from my family, I thought I’d make up a batch of sweet and sour beetballs. Unfortunately, I’m not saying my family eats meatless meatballs, but I did call my grandma and get her sauce recipe (which I then proceeded to adapt to more modern tastes).
These are just lovely; good meaty texture, a tangy, fun and sweet sauce. They’re nice warm, as a part of dinner, or cold as a appetizer. I like the firmness that cornmeal lends to dishes like this, but you can substitute about the same amount of breadcrumbs, adding a little more at a time until the mixture sticks together easily. Also, use all purpose flour, if you don’t need this to be gluten-free. I made a couple dozen this time and they were about one tablespoon each. If I were to do it again, I think I might halve the size, but that’s just a matter of personal preference, of course. Adjust the cooking time to the size you choose.
Just a note: These are firmer, the colder they are, so keep that in mind when deciding how to serve them.
1 lb (454 grams) extra firm tofu, crumbled fine
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
1 medium red beet, peeled and shredded
~2 tablespoons diced pumpkin, or butternut squash
1 stalk celery, diced
5 cloves garlic, grated over a microplane
~200 g cremini mushrooms, diced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried savoury
1 cup coarse cornmeal (polenta)
1/2 cup all purpose flour, use this gluten-free one if needed
1/2 cup mashed pumpkin (or sweet potato)
2 tablespoons tamari, or soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil, or other oil, plus more for browning
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly cracked black pepper, to your taste
Mix together the tofu, onion, carrot, beet, celery, garlic and mushrooms in a large bowl. Add the herbs and spices. Let sit for about 15 minutes, so the flavours can start to mingle. Mix in the cornmeal, flour, pumpkin, tamari, oil and salt and pepper. If you have the time, cover and refrigerate for several hours, or even overnight. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat about a teaspoon of oil to cover the bottom of a non-stick pan, over medium heat. Form the tofu mixture into balls and fry on each side until they’re golden brown. Transfer to your prepared baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, until the beetballs are firm. Refrigerate until ready to use.
1 cup ketchup
3/4 cup canned pineapple pieces, with their juice
1/2 cup vinegar, apple cider or white
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk all ingredients together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until bubbling. Allow to reduce for about 10 minutes, whisking occasionally.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Place the browned and cooled beetballs into a baking dish. Cover with the sauce. Bake, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. You can bake for less time, or more time, depending on how much sauce you would like to remain. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, until the beet ball can easily be handled. If you try to eat them too soon, they will fall apart, so hold off.
Note: If you are busy using the oven for other things, you can bake the beetballs at whatever temperature that dish needs. Since the beetballs are already browned, we’re just looking to have the sauce soak into the balls and for it to become richer, deeper in flavour and darker. Just keep an eye on the beetballs and adjust the cooking time accordingly.