TOMATENSOEP MET BALLEKES (Belgian tomato soup with little meatballs, for six)
For the soup:
2-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, trimmed, rinsed well and coarsely chopped (double the amount of onion if no leeks are on hand)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped celery
3-1/2 cups beef broth, preferably homemade
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped, or 1 can (28 ounces) peeled whole tomatoes
1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar, if needed
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup heavy cream or whole milk (optional)
For the meatballs:
6 ounces ground veal or a mixture of ground veal and pork
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. For the soup, melt 1-1/2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, leek, carrot and celery; cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Do not let them brown.
2. Add the beef broth, tomatoes, potato, parsley and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are very soft, 40 to 50 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly. Discard the bay leaf, then puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor. Return the pureed soup to the saucepan and taste for seasoning. Add a little sugar if necessary. This will depend on the acidity of the tomatoes. The soup should taste smooth, neither acidic nor sweet. Add salt if necessary and a generous grinding of black pepper.
4. While the soup is simmering, prepare the meatballs. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Mix the ground meat with the parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper until combined. Coat the palms of your hands with flour and shape the meat into little meat balls the size of marbles. You should have about 20 meatballs. Drop the meatballs into the boiling water and poach until they float to the surface, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon and set aside.
5. When ready to serve, heat the soup but do not let it boil. Whisk in the cream if using and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. If you are dieting, forget this final step. The soup will still be delicious. Add the meatballs to the soup just before serving, and make sure everyone gets a fair share of delicious marbles in their bowl.
from Ruth Van Waerebeek, Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook