Soft and dreamy pike balls in an aromatic green broth = a hearty and comforting bowl for a cold September’s day!
Pike balls & green coconut broth!
I shop a lot of goodies from my local foodhub (Uudenmaan Ruoka), which connects local farmers and small producers with customers. This is how I get my hands on some rare produce such as zucchini flowers, shiso and einkorn flour as well as fresh herbs and veggies. And occasionally, local wild fish!
I admit to being susceptible to impulse buys whilst grocery shopping. Last time I was browsing the selection at the food hub, my eyes were caught by ground Northern pike! I instantly knew what I’d make with it: pike balls. Pike is a flavor from my childhood. Every summer we’d spend time at my grandparent’s summer cottage, and my dad would fish for pike. Yes, it’s a notoriously bony fish and when grown too big, it can be a bit “woody”. But for me pike has always been a nostalgic taste of summer … A taste I’ve not had for years! So pike balls it is, but not with traditional Finnish flavor profile, but in an aromatic green broth, loosely inspired by my travels to South East Asia.
Pike balls are extremely easy to make, if you have bought pre ground pike like I did. You simply mix the ingredients, form the balls with wet hands and cook them in a simmering broth! Even if you have to grind the pike yourself, it’s easy to do with a blender. (I guess the more difficult part is cleaning the blender afterwards.) Northern pike is a fish that’s often overlooked here in Finland for it’s relatively mild flavor and the large amount of bones. Most of the pike in Finland is fished by recreational fishers – like my dad at the cottage. Only a small percentage is caught by professionals to be sold commercially. Pike is currenlty a sustainable choice of fish here in Finland (WWF fish guide for Finland).
Because of the bones, pike is often used ground up and made into fish cakes or fish balls. Traditional Finnish pike balls “haukipullat” would be seasoned with dill, but I went for a bit of a different flavor profile today. As the pike balls simmer in the broth, they infuse it with their flavor. This can then be further seasoned with different aromatics, and rounded up by creamy coconut milk!
… green coconut broth…
Although I wasn’t going for the style of any specific cuisine with my flavors, they’re clearly inspired by South East Asian aromas. If I would’ve had store bought Thai green curry paste at home, I’d likely have used it in the broth. And if I’d had time to make some kind of green curry paste myself, I most certainly would’ve. But, I had neither. So, my “green coconut broth” gets all it’s flavor from stuff I always have at home. Ginger, garlic, mild green chili (jalapeño to be exact), lime and soy sauce. Very simple, but very delicious. The big boost of flavor + a timid green color comes from a whole bunch of cilantro. It’s blitzed up stems and all with a dash of coconut milk, lime juice and green chili and added it in at the very last minute.
Since I dried some of fresh kaffir lime leaves I’d found at a local international store in Spring, I did add a few of those in to the broth too. Another time, I used locally grown lemongrass. Both impart an aromatic citrus note to the broth, which I highly recommend! But as I know not all of my readers especially here in Finland are likely to find these ingredients, I’m adding them as an optional ingredient in the recipe. If you’re reading this in a region where these ingredients are easy to get a hold on, please add both and opt for fresh kaffir lime leaves instead of dried ones!
+ seasonal Veggies!
I also added a bunch of fresh local and seasonal veggies to the pot. My choices were this summer’s potatoes, carrot, Savoy-cabbage, green beans and spinach. To avoid over cooking and do each veg justice, I added them in at different times. After having cooked the pike balls and I fished them out of the broth. I then threw in the potatoes and the carrot. Once they were half cooked, in went shredded Savoy cabbage. As the potatoes were a few minutes away from done, I added the green beans. Finally when everything was almost done, I added the spinach and pike balls back in to the soup.
Then all that was left to do was to add coconut milk and slightly thicken the broth with corn starch. I seasoned the soup with a blend of cilantro, green chili, coconut milk and lime juice right before serving. Since the soup wasn’t boiled at this point, the flavors stayed nice and fresh!
Pike balls & green coconut broth
- 1 egg
- ½ dl bread crumbs
- ½ dl coconut milk
- 500 g ground up northern pike (or other white low fat fish)
- 1 lime, zest
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground white pepper
- 1 ½ l mild fish stock / veggie stock
- 2 cm piece of fresh ginger
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsp soy sauce (light)
- a few kaffir lime leaves / stalk of lemon grass, bruised (optional, but highly recommended!)
- 6-7 small(ish) potatoes
- 1 carrot (medium size)
- ½ Savoy cabbage (medium size)
- 1 spring onion
- 150 g green beans
- 1 handful fresh spinach
- 2 tbsp corn starch (+ 2 tbsp water)
- 2½ dl coconut milk
To finish the broth:
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 lime, juice
- 1 mild green chili (for example jalapeno)
- 1 dl coconut milk
- 1 mild green chili (for example jalapeno, sliced and de-seeded)
- fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 lime (cut into wedges)
- You can sub any of the veggies with what you prefer: bok choy, sugar snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower... just make sure not to over cook any of them 😉
- If you can't access Northern pike, you can try using any low fat white fish.
- If you don't like cilantro, try substituting it with Thai basil or chervil!
- Mix one egg, half a deciliter of coconut milk and bread crumbs together. Season with a grated garlic clove and the zest of one lime; salt and white pepper. Mix well and add the ground pike. (If you are using pike fillets, grind them finely in a blender). If you want to taste the seasonings, you can boil a small dollop of the mix in the stock, taste and adjust the flavors.
- Heat the fish/veggie stock in a large pot. I use stock cubes, which I add about ¾ of the recommended amount, so that I can season the broth more later myself.
- Grate in a few centimeters of fresh ginger and two cloves of garlic. If using, throw in a few kaffir lime leaves and/or a stalk of lemon grass which you should bruise to release the aromatics. Keep the stock simmering and cover with a lid.
- Wet your hands and roll up the pike balls. They should be a bit smaller than a golf ball, which will make you about 25-30 fish balls. Boil the pike balls in the simmering stock until they rise to the surface. Keep cooking a few minutes once they start to float, then fish them out on to a plate. I cook the balls in 2-3 rounds, until all pike balls have been cooked. Cover the pot with a lid and keep warm.
- Wash and peel (peeling optional, I personally don't bother) the potatoes and carrot. Chop the potato to bite sized pieces and slice the carrot to coins. Shred the Savoy cabbage and trim of the ends of the green beans. Cut beans to pieces of a few centimeters. Finely chop spring onion and take out the hard stems of spinach.
- Blitz up a big bunch of cilantro, stems and all, with the juice of one lime, one mild green chili (de-seeded if you want even less heat) and a deciliter of coconut milk.
- Add the veggies in the simmering stock in this order: first the potatoes and carrots. As they are half way done, add in the cabbage. When potatoes are a few minutes from done, add in green beans and spring onion. Once the green beans and potatoes are cooked, add in spinach. Cover the pot with a lid.
Finishing the soup:
- Remove the kaffir lime leaves / lemongrass if using. Add in 2,5 dl coconut milk. Mix corn starch with a bit of water and bring the broth back to a boil. Simmer and stir until thickened. Take the soup off the heat and add in the pike balls to warm up. Add the cilantro mixture in to the pot right before serving. You can heat the soup up quickly if needed, but try to avoid boiling much to keep flavors fresh and to avoid over cooking anything.
- Serve the pike balls, veggies and green broth from a bowl. Garnish the bowls with a bit more fresh cilantro, a lime wedge and a some sliced green chili