Cape Frikkadelle Recipe

Frikkadelle (meatballs) were prepared by the Persians and Romans many centuries ago. It was a popular dish at the Cape and was most often stewed or braised, but sometimes fried in shallow fat. There were many variations of the recipe.

The old Persian recipe in which raw meat was wrapped around shelled hard-boiled eggs, before it was fried in shallow fat, was well-known at the Cape. Before serving, these frikkadelle were halved and then dished with fried sweet-and-sour onions.

The Greek variation of meatballs wrapped in cabbage or vine leaves also became popular amongst the old Persians. The Dutch used lettuce leaves to  wrap the frikkadelle.


1 head firm cos lettuce, or lettuce of your choice, or cabbage

¼ cup (60 ml) butter

1 onion, chopped

2 gloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp (5 ml) chopped fresh root ginger

¼ tsp (1 ml) grated nutmeg, or more to taste

1 tsp (1 ml) ground gloves, or more to taste

1 tsp (5 ml) salt

¼ tsp (1 ml) ground white pepper, or more to taste

½ cup (125 ml) apple cider vinegar

½ cup (125 ml) brown sugar

¼ cup (60 ml) fruit chutney

2 kg lamb or beef, minced

500 g pork, minced

2 Tbsp (30 ml) chopped fresh coriander or parsley (optional)

¾ cup (190 ml) water or meat stock


Preheat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F)

Loosen all the lettuce or cabbage leaves from the stem and remove the thick vein from each leaf with a sharp knife. Place the leave in a large saucepan with boiling water and simmer for 30 seconds.

Remove the leaves with a slotted spoon and refresh immediately in iced water. Leave to cool for a few minutes, and then remove the lettuce or cabbage from the water, dry and set aside in a refrigerator.

Heat 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of butter in a large saucepan and add the onion, garlic, ginger, spices and seasoning, and sauté until the onion is tender.

Add the vinegar, sugar and chutney and cook until the mixture is thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.

Place the mince, chutney pickle and coriander or parsley (if using) in a large bowl and mix well. Season with salt to taste.

Roll mince into 80 g balls and cut the lettuce leaves into 10 x 5 cm strips. Wrap each frikkadel in a lettuce or cabbage leaf and secure with a toothpick.

Place the frikkadelle in greased ovenproof dish and dot with the remaining butter. Add a little water or stock cover the dish with a lid or foil. Bake in oven for 25 minutes.

The frikkadelle can be served immediately or can be reheated. They can also be enjoyed cold as part of an al fresco lunch.