Chicken or turkey stew with balls: traditional Murcian recipe (as my grandmother used to do)

I am very fond of this recipe for chicken or turkey stew with balls; the aroma that comes out of the pot takes me to christmas day at my grandparents' house, in the middle of the Murcian orchard. Today it may not seem like a luxury dish, but not so many years ago it was quite a feast reserved for big occasions, one of those recipes that pass from generation to generation and that in each house have their particular touch.

In the vegetable garden of Murcia, as in so many other places, it was customary to sacrifice a kettle for the festivities, although free-range chicken is more common now. To make balls or meatballs there is no exact formula; Many families took advantage of slaughter products -the lean pork, sausage and white could not be missing-, but my mother now tries not to make them so fat and caloric. Times change, although traditions not so much.

The recipe is, like so many familiar elaborations of yesteryear, a little to the eye. Neither my grandmother nor mother have ever measured quantities, always coping with what was in each moment or what the neighborhood butcher shop offered.

There is one thing clear: you better prepare the balls in advance and consider that we will get a lot. This stew can feed 6 people without problems, serving more meatballs and depending on the size of the bird, but in the end the idea is to have leftovers to freeze. It is also very typical to drink the broth with balls, without anything else, to regain strength at any time.


For 4 people
  • Minced meat (beef and pork) 600 g
  • Chopped chicken thighs 200 g
  • Iberian sausage 2
  • Bacon a slice (optional)
  • Pinions 30 g
  • Sliced ​​loaf of bread (have a couple of days) 1
  • Egg (approximately) 4
  • Free range chicken 1
  • Rolled garlic clove 2
  • Chopped almonds 40 g
  • Tomato concentrate 30 ml
  • Laurel (small) 2
  • White wine 100 ml
  • Saffron a few strands
  • Cognac 50 ml
  • Chicken broth or water needed
  • Lemon juice 15 ml
  • Ground black pepper
  • Potato peeled and cracked 3
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh parsley

How to make chicken or turkey stew with balls

Difficulty: easy
  • Total time 1 h 45 m
  • Elaboration 30 m
  • Cooking 1 h 15 m

As mentioned in the introduction, we can prepare the balls in advance and thus speed up the cooking on the day of the stew. We will need bread from good molla, "de pueblo", that has a couple of days, minced or grated by hand. Failing that, the usual hard bread soaked in milk.

Start by mixing all the meat in a large bowl, removing the sausage from the casings. Season with salt and pepper, add chopped parsley and eggs. Mix everything well and start kneading until they are integrated. Add the pine nuts (we can reserve a part for the stew), a splash of lemon juice and bread. Combine well until you have a spongy dough, which can hold the shape.

You have to go a little to eye to adjust the texture; Depending on the meat mixture, the type of bread and the eggs we may need to add one more egg or a little more bread. Form the balls with wet hands, generous in size.

Fry in batches so that they are golden on the outside, without cooking them completely on the inside. Freeze, when they are cold, those that we will not need in the stew.

For the final dish, season the chopped chicken with the skin - better if we separate thighs and counter thighs, although in this case I did not - and brown in a large pot or pan with oil. Withdraw and reserve.

Brown the garlic with the almonds in the same oil, adding pine nuts if we have reserved part. When they are golden, watching that they do not burn, add the tomato, the bay leaf and the wine, scratching the bottom so that it takes on a good flavor. Crush with the spatula to slightly chop the sofrito.

Return the chicken to the pot, water with the cognac and add broth or water, without completely covering it. Add the saffron and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the potato chips, the balls and a little more broth. Cover and simmer until the meat is tender and the potatoes are very syrupy, about 40-45 minutes. Water with a splash of lemon at the end.

With what to accompany the chicken stew with balls

A comforting and tasty dish like this chicken stew with balls asks for good bread to dip, although it is not convenient to overdo it, because it is already very complete. It is best to end the meal with some fresh seasonal fruit or serve a simple salad first.

If we want to stay true to the traditions, we would have to prepare pot coffee and take the mistela and the Christmas sweets from Murcia on the table, but it is totally optional.

Tags:  Desserts Meats And Birds Fish 

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