Recipe Wednesday: Meatballs From History (Part 2 of 3)

My next entry in my “Historical Meatballs” collection is embarrassing, in a couple of ways.

The first is because I’ve been making these yummy meatballs for at least ten years now, and for almost all of that time, I’ve been calling them by the wrong name.  Which is one of the hazards of using a secondary source as a reference; the incorrect name I’d been using was the one assigned to it by the author of that source.

And the second reason is the name of the dish itself:  “Farts of Portingale.”

(Admit it:  Your inner seven-year-old giggled, didn’t he/she?)

The name I called them by for lo, these many years was “Fysts of Portingale”.  But when I finally had the opportunity to track down the original source, I discovered that “Fysts” actually referred to the next recipe in the manuscript (which seems to be a ball made of suet and eggs).  But the one I knew and loved was, without a doubt, “Farts of Portingale.”  (It would appear that Fysts are larger, “as big as tennis balles”, while Farts are smaller; I make mine about the size of a walnut.)

But regardless of the name, these little guys are tasty.

So first, here’s the original source recipe:

How to make farts of portingale:
Take a piece of a leg of mutton, mince it smal and season it with cloves, mace, pepper and salt, and Dates mixed with Currans, then roll it into round rolles, and so into little balles, and so boyle them in a little beefe broth and so serve them foorth.

–The Good Huswife’s Handmaid, 1594; recipe originally quoted as “Fysts of Portingale” in Seven Centuries of English Cooking

This actually seems pretty straightforward.  So here’s what I came up with:

1 pound ground lamb
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon each salt, ground mace, and ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup currants
1 quart beef stock

Mix all ingredients except for the stock.  Form the mixture into balls about the size of a walnut and poach in the beef stock for 5-7 minutes.

The original implies that they should be served hot, but they’re quite good cold as well.  (They make a great picnic or sideboard dish.)  Or, if you need to make them ahead of time, you can easily re-heat them before serving by re-poaching them in broth.

And don’t throw out that lovely, rich broth when you’re finished!  After you skim off the fat, the broth is great in soups or to flavor other dishes.

I like these best when made with lamb, but since I’m often making them for an SCA feast where cost can be an issue, cutting them half-and-half with beef is a good compromise.  I’ve even made them with just beef and had them turn out well.

Oh, and an on-line source says that “Portingale” means “Portuguese”.  In case you were wondering.


Has anyone else later discovered that they’ve been calling a favorite dish by the wrong name?  Was it funny or embarrassing?


About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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