The Latvian and Modern KitchenFischbach D.P. Camp, Germany, 1948

"Maltā gaļa" can refer to any consistency of ground meat. It can be coarse, once through the meat grinder. Or it can be minced, that is, as you would (today) run through a food processor — which didn't exist seventy-nine years ago when cookbook was originally published. While once through the meat grinder can suffice if using store-ground meat, the general recommendation for proper kotlete texture is to run the meat through twice, or more for an even finer consistency. Silvija clearly remembers that the meat grinder was never out of reach in her grandmother's kitchen—the meat grinder is an essential tool in Latvian cooking. It's for more than just meat.

Ground meat dishes[1]

Ground meat dishes can be prepared from numerous different meats, such as pork, beef, veal, lamb, poultry, game, etc. You should figure a 100-150 gr. portion per person when preparing such dishes. You can use tougher cuts of meat for grinding, typically boneless cuts from the thigh or shoulder. Prior to grinding, thoroughly wipe down the meat with a damp, then dry cloth, remove membranes and sinews, then cut into smaller pieces and place in the meat grinder. The meat should be ground at least twice to be finer and more malleable.

For ground meat dishes to be more tender and juicier, add white bread which has been soaked in milk or water, potato flour, and for lean cuts of meat, for example, steer[2] meat—bacon, for the meat to absorb more liquid. To augment the ground meat, you can add boiled meat, potatoes, flour, dried oat flakes, and farina[3]. Grind the additional ingredients together with the meat; they should not exceed more than a third of the bulk of the meat, otherwise you lose the flavor of the meat. If you mix in additional ingredients, if selecting ones of a unique flavor, such as [pickled] cucumbers[4] or herring, then they will lend the prepared food their specific flavors, which also is sometimes necessary[5]. To insure the meat mass stays together, especially in the case of several additional ingredients, then add eggs. To dilute the meat, use milk, sour cream, cold broth or water.[6] Add liquid while mixing the mass. If you pour it in slowly, excessive stirring will yield boiled or fried foods which are tough and porous, whereas quickly diluted, lightly stirred, ground meat dishes come apart easily and are juicier. Ground meat dishes can be prepared cepts[7] sautéed, and boiled.

Serve ground meat dishes with various prepared potato, vegetable, and salad side dishes. For cepts dishes, choose a brown gravy, for boiled, white.

Ground meat is more easily digested than a piece of meat prepared whole, therefore recommended for children and the sick.

Meat kotletes

Beef — 300 gr.Potato flour — 1 teaspoon.
Pork — 300 gr.Liquid — as needed.
White bread — 40-50 gr.Salt, onion — to taste
(Milk or water to soak white bread.)Breadcrumbs — 75-100 gr.
Eggs — 1Fat for frying — 40-50 gr.

Run the trimmed, cut-up meat twice through the meat grinder. You can grind up the soaked bread and onions at the same time. Alternately, you can also add finely chopped onions which have been fried in butter. Dilute the ground mass with liquid[8], add egg, potato flour, salt, mix well and form the kotlete. Form the kotletes on a board or table dusted with breadcrumbs so the meat doesn't stick. Kotletes can be round or long — bolt-shaped.

For long ones, using a knife to roll a meat lump in the breadcrumbs, flatten and, holding with another knife, form the "bolt", approximately a centimeter thick.

Don't make the kotletes too thin, otherwise they will lose too many juices and become hard and dry. On both sides of the kotlete, press in criss-crossed grooves, not too deep, then fry in hot fat or butter, on both sides, until light brown. Properly prepared kotletes should be tender, juicy, and come apart easily.

Arrange the fried kotletes on a medium-sized, shallow, baking-dish, placing them in rows, diagonally on each other. You can decorate the bowl with some greens — celery or parsley leaves.

Serve kotletes hot, with a sour cream- or tomato-based gravy, boiled potatoes, various sautéed vegetables and also fresh or pickled salads.

Beef kotletes.

Beef — 500 gr.Potato flour — 1 teaspoon.
"Fresh bacon"-see ref.[9] — 100 g.Salt, onion — to taste
White bread — 40-50 gr.Liquid, breadcrumbs, fat for frying — as needed.
Egg — 1

Prepared as above.

Veal[12] kotletes.

Veal — 500 gr.Salt, onion — to taste.
"Fresh bacon"-see ref.[11] — 100 g.Liquid, breadcrumbs, fat for baking — as needed.
White bread — 40-50 gr.Egg — 1

Prepared as above.

Lamb kotletes.

Lamb meat — 500 gr.Salt, onion — to taste
"Fresh bacon"-see ref.[12] — 100 g.Liquid, breadcrumbs, fat for frying — as needed.
White bread — 40-50 gr.Egg — 1

Prepared as above.

Updated: December, 1969

[1]"Latviskā un Modernā Virtuve," pages 90-91.
[2]From a "vērsis," castrated male cattle raised for meat.
[3]"Mannā," in our households, "Cream of Wheat."
[4]Latvian "gurķi," typically home-grown, were of pickling size, similar to the "Persian" or "Russian" cucumbers one finds in the chain or ethnic grocery markets, respectively. Given "siļķe," following, refers to pickled herring, we would surmise that pickled cucumbers qualify here as well.
[5]We assume if preparing a less flavorful cut of meat.
[6]Peter's father was the cook of the family, he favored evaporated milk. On Silvija's side, sour cream.
[7]"Cepts" is a general term which in Latvian covers pan-fried, baked for bread, broiled, grilled, etc., that is, not sautéed or boiled.
[8]Reference the section on preparation, above.
[9],[11],[12]"Speķis" (commonly translated on its own as "bacon") is specified throughout the cookbook as either "žāvēts" (smoked or cured, as for pīrāgi/speķa rauši) or "svaigs" (fresh, as here). Peters' first visit to Latvia less than a year after the restoration of independence was during a simpler time—when the price of pork bellies opened the news every evening on television. "Fresh 'bacon'" certainly refers to fresh uncured pork belly. Unfortunately, fresh pork belly is now a specialty cut. Most likely, you will need to place an order at the butcher or purchase it online. However, most online purveyors ship their meats frozen. We have found only one, Lobel's, which ships everything fresh overnight. ("We have no relationship.") Lastly, Berkshire/Kurobuta pork looks to be most like the highly prized Latvian pork of yesteryear.
[12]Personally, we do not use veal. Latvian "veal" merely meant calf, not today's industrialized veal.
"Latviskā un Modernā Virtuve" remains under Latvian copyright and is presented for personal and educational use only. Our reproduction with commentary and selected translations qualifies as part of a protected collection and a protected derivative work under Latvian Copyright Law § 5. ¶ 1. © 2018.

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