Nope, this is not the bird’s nest done the Chinese way. It has nothing to do with swallows’ nest, which is synonymous to the bird’s nest soup we are akin to as the medicinal delicacy made from the salivary excretions of the cave swift(lets).
I was introduced to this dish in Belgium by my late Mother-in-law (MIL) in 1995. The classic Flemish bird’s nest is actually the encasing of a hardboiled egg in minced meat. Sounds familiar? I guess you would call it by Scotch eggs (in the UK) or Nargisi Kofta (Moghul kitchen). In the Netherlands and Belgium, these are called “Vogelnestje”, literally translated as “little bird’s nest”
A frugal meal
People may have associated Scotch eggs as an invention by the Scots, but there are many legends and history that have proven otherwise. Let’s just say that the Scotch eggs’ origins are rather obscure. You can check this out on the web.
If you don’t already know, “scotch” also means avoiding waste, hence would match the definition of an “economical meal”. Scotch eggs, a frugal meal make more sense 😀
My Scotch egg or better known in Flanders as “little bird’s nest” is based on Jeroen Meus’ recipe. Jeroen is a very popular TV chef in Flanders. At the same time he runs his own restaurant called, Luzine in Wilsele and he also whipped up 4 recipe books ‘Dagelijkse Kost’ 1, 2, 3 and 4. The 5th book will be on the shelf very soon.
By the way, I am the proud owner of all his 4 recipe books and will gladly buy his 5th. His recipes are no-nonsense, easy to follow and very honest and straightforward.
The “Vogelnestje” is from his 2nd book. I have adapted the recipe with some modifications.
(Makes 6 “bird’s nests”)
- 600g minced meat (I used 1 kg)
- 4 eggs + 1 extra egg (I used 6 eggs + 1 extra egg for binding)
- 2 Tbsp breadcrumbs (I used a bit more than 2 Tbsp)
- 1 knob of butter (I used olive oil)
- Pepper (freshly milled black pepper)
- Salt to taste
The Tomato Sauce (Own version)
- 2 onions (I used 1 large onion)
- Olive oil
- 800g tomatoes (I used 2 big tomatoes, skinned and diced finely)
- 80g of concentrated tomato paste (I used supercirio tomato paste)
- 1 tsp sambal, to taste (I used 1 tsp of Mae Ploy chilli shrimp paste + 1/2 tsp Mae Pranom shrimp flavoured crushed chilli)
- 1 tsp sugar (I omitted sugar but used about 1/3 chicken stock cube)
- Fresh basil
- Fresh thyme (I used dried thyme)
- Fresh oregano (I used dried oregano)
- 5 cl red wine (I used a dash of Sandeman Ruby Porto)
- Mushrooms, thinly sliced (these are not on the recipe)
Mashed potatoes or fries (I made wedged herbed potatoes)
The bird’s nest –
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the 6 eggs and count 9 to 10 minutes.
- Cool the eggs under cold running water and peel them. Set aside.
- Take a large bowl and add the ground meat with a pinch of salt and freshly milled black pepper.
- Add the extra egg and combine this to the meat mixture.
- Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the meat and grate some fresh nutmeg, to taste.
- Wash your hands and knead the meat to a firm but not too dry mixture
- Divide the meat mixture to 6 meatballs
- Put the ball in your hand, flatten each meatball and push the centre to form a well and place a hard-boiled egg into the well. Cover the entire egg with the meat, rolling the meat with your hands until you get a smooth meatball surface.
- Place the bird’s nests in an oven dish
- Preheat the oven to 180° C
- Put a frying pan over medium heat, melt a knob of butter (Note: I omitted this step. I baked my bird’s nests in the oven with some olive oil, turning once or twice until the crusts turned golden brown)
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Check if the meat is cooked by inserting a toothpick in the meatball. If the toothpick comes out dry, the meat is cooked.
The sauce –
- Place a casserole over medium high heat and drizzle some olive oil.
- Peel and chop the onion coarsely
- Sauté the onion and stir frequently
- Add a spoonful of sugar (I replaced sugar with some chicken stock cube), the concentrated tomato paste and the chilli shrimp paste.
- Keep stirring and then pour the ruby porto (in lieu of red wine) until the alcohol evaporates.
- Add the diced tomatoes and the sliced mushrooms.
- Sprinkle the herbs in the pot and let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes over low heat.
- Taste the sauce for seasoning before serving.
How to serve –
- Cut each meatball in half and place the halves on a serving plate.
I served my bird’s nest with homemade baked potato wedges and braised Belgian endives (witloof) with the special sambal and porto sauce. It was scrumptious!
I’m quite sure I’ve done justice to Jeroen’s “Vogelnestje” 😉
I am submitting this post to the Little Thumbs up event with the August theme “EGGS”, hosted by Yen from Eat your heart out organised by Doreen from my little favourite DIY and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids.
As well as to –
Ciao and enjoy the rest of the week!