Tag Archives: meatballs

Thai turkey and shiitake meatballs with spinach and coconut

IMG_20171017_194358_298

Finding the oomph to create new and inspiring recipes when life conspires against you is hard. The last couple of years have been something of a roller-coaster, one where I’ve barely recovered from one crisis before the next comes along. We all have periods like this in our life; times when we feel things will never calm down and our creative or vibrant spark proves elusive. I guess its like a form of writers block, or a creative grey patch where new ideas are impossible to muster. Instead of creating I find myself rushing through family dinner preparation, or shoving something together quickly while the hungry boys clamor to be fed. It’s a place where cooking is less, leisurely relaxing pursuit and more race against time. Does this all sound familiar?

Happily I am beginning to return to the old me and have started to experience the odd brain wave moment. Give me some random ingredients and a bit of head space and I’m in my element and now that work is winding down for the winter I’m returning to my roots. Experimental cooking, writing, photography (and possibly even a supper club!).

For added incentive I’m on a self enforced weight loss programme. I’m trying to ditch the carbs and refined sugars in a bid to drop a dress size. Now I’m not generally prone to following fad diets, but despite making excuses for my weight gain (contentment, new relationship, etc) I have to admit that its most likely down to menopause (a bastard to women in their forties) and despite being pretty fit all my life I’m no longer able to rely on my metabolism and exercise. Its crap. But I’m looking for ways to eat well without piling on the pounds.

I’ve ditched potatoes, pasta, rice and bread. I’m limiting sweet things and trying to stick to fruit and nuts as snacks. It’s hard to come up with interesting things when my partner is picky as hell, but at least my fourteen year old eats anything put in front of him (an understatement…the boy never stops eating. He can clear a fruit bowl in one sitting..oh, except if its mash potato apparently; because mashed potatoes taste different to boiled ones. Yes that one confused me too..go figure).

Anyway, with this new and rather limited remit I set off on an experimental journey. What I came up with ticked everyone’s boxes: A cheaper and lighter meat, my favourite Thai ingredients, mushrooms to keep the other half happy (they are his favourite food in all the world) and just lots of it (for the teen). The boys ate their meatballs with rice and I made myself some courgette noodles with my spiralizer.

For the meat balls:

500g turkey mince

Half a medium onion finely chopped (save the other half for the sauce)

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

4 shiitake mushrooms finely chopped (from a 125g punnet)

an inch of fresh ginger finely chopped

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon Thai curry paste

1 egg

Groundnut oil

For the sauce:

1 small red bell pepper thinly sliced

the other half of the onion

the rest of the shiitake mushrooms

a handful of shredded spinach or chard

2 cloves of garlic

tin of coconut milk

Thai curry paste (enough for your own taste) I used a teaspoon because I can’t tolerate too much chilli

Juice of one lime

Chopped coriander to finish

For the meatballs: Either in a food processor, or by hand, pulse the onion, mushrooms, ginger and garlic until finely chopped. Add the turkey mince, fish sauce, curry paste and egg and pulse again until combined. Form into small balls the size of golf balls.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and fry the balls in batches until browned all over. Put to one side in a bowl while you make the sauce.

Add the remaining onion, red pepper, garlic and stir fry for one minute. Add the remaining shiitake mushrooms and the Thai curry paste and stir fry for another minute. Add the coconut milk and lime juice and return the meatballs to the pan. Simmer until the sauce has reduced and meatballs are cooked. Stir in the spinach or chard right at the end and allow to wilt into the sauce. Finish with a good sprinkling of coriander.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Asian cookery, home cooking, local produce, Recipes

One for midweek..Moroccan lamb and spinach balls with harissa tomato sauce (couscous and minty yogurt)

Sometimes my decision-making skills seem distinctly lacking. There are times when I endlessly dither over the tiniest details, instead of going with my instincts, until I drive myself (and others mad) with my inability to make up my mind. I know it’s an infuriating trait and its so stupid when I can make monumental life changing decisions, big business choices,  but can’t decide if I want meatballs for dinner or something with some Moroccan spice.

I hope for divine inspiration, umm and ah for a while, running ideas by the boy who seems impressed and so we eventually come up with Moroccan spiced meatballs. Throw in some fresh spinach (which I have in good supply now my local veg box is running again) and there. How easy was that?

A family feast ...Moroccan lamb and spinach balls, couscous and minty yogurt

A family feast …Moroccan lamb and spinach balls, couscous and minty yogurt

Moroccan lamb and spinach balls, harissa tomato sauce (couscous and yogurt with mint): recipe for up to four (although Aidan and I were very hungry after our Sunday run so ate three-quarters of them!)

For the meatballs:

500g lamb mince

100g finely chopped spinach

clove garlic finely minced

2 teaspoons ras al hanout

1 teaspoon cumin

1 egg beaten

zest of 1 lemon

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon oil to fry

For the sauce:

small red onion finely chopped

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon harissa

150ml chicken stock

one dessertspoonful sun-dried tomato paste

salt/ pepper and a pinch of sugar if the sauce seems a bit tart (tinned tomatoes are often quite acidic)

**

Mix the lamb, spinach, spices, garlic, seasonings, lemon zest and egg in a large bowl. Use your hands to knead it all together so the spices are completely distributed. Form into bite size balls.

IMG_4072[1]IMG_4073[1]

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the lamb balls and fry over a medium heat until nicely brown all over. Remove and keep to one side. Add a little more olive oil if necessary (you will probably find that enough oil remains) and turn the heat down a bit. Add the onion and garlic and sweat gently for about five to ten minutes. Add the tomatoes, harissa, tomato paste and stock and turn the heat up again. Bring to a gentle simmer and return the balls to the pan cooking gently for about 25 minutes, or until the sauce has cooked down and thickened. Check the seasoning adding salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar if the tomatoes are a bit acidic.

Serve with couscous (try Yotam Ottolenghi’s Green Couscous from his book Plenty it’s an absolute favourite…or make a variation as I did below..

Serves 4

150g couscous
160ml vegetable stock
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
sml tsp ground cumin
3 spring onions, finely sliced
30g rocket, chopped

juice of half a lemon
handful of coriander finely chopped

Place the couscous in a large shallow dish and cover with the stock. Cover the dish with cling film and leave for 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, fry the onion in olive oil on a medium heat until golden and completely soft. Add the salt and cumin, and mix well leaving to fry for a minute. Stir onion mixture into the couscous, fluffing up the grains with a fork as you go. Add the remaining ingredients mixing together well.

To finish mix a handful of finely chopped mint into a small bowl of Rachel’s low-fat natural yogurt with a pinch of sea salt.

IMG_4076[1]

Leave a comment

Filed under family budget cooking, home cooking, local produce, middle eastern food, Recipes, salads, seasonal food

For the love of meat balls

My recent lunch in Polpo reminded me of how much I love Italian meatballs, or Polpette as they are there.

Polpette...with a bit of spagetti...even though I said I prefer them without!!..a hungry mother can change her mind can't she?

Meatballs are standard fare around the world. In Germany they are fried and called frikadeller or klopse and in Denmark they are frikadelier. In Indonesia and the Philippines they are more usually served in a noodle soup or broth.  In Portugal or Brazil they are almôndegas and cooked in a tomato sauce. I have my own recipe for these yummy little meatballs which seems to include elements from all the countries, although mine are more akin to the Italian inspired ones I had at Polpo that came with a rich tomato sauce, the perfect accompaniment to my mind.

Polpette are usually made with a mixture of beef and pork, bread soaked in milk and flavoured with a variety of ingredients such as onion, parsley, Romano cheese or garlic. They are commonly served as a second course with a salad, and not in the American style, with pasta. Having said this, serving them with pasta in Italy is not unheard of and I often do at home simply because the kids demand it!

I love them simply because they are hearty country fare. No fuss. No need for unneccessary adornment. But these succulent little balls are also versatile. They are perfect for lunch or supper; they make me think of raucous family dinners sat around a large table in the sun, but at the same time they comfortably hold their own as part of a restaurant menu. Even better, it is just as easy to make a vat full for a large hungry gathering as it is to make a small amount for two.

a massive pan of Polpette for a lot of people

Polpette:

To serve six to eight with or without pasta.

For the polpette: 2 thick slices ciabatta, 8 tablespoons milk, 350g minced pork, 350g minced beef, a good handful of chopped parsley, a handful of chopped fresh oregano, 4 cloves garlic, 1 large egg beaten.

For the sauce: 2 tins of cherry tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato or sun-dried tomato puree, 1 teaspoon sugar, 150ml of red wine, or water, 2 cloves garlic crushed. Chopped parsley and fresh oregano. Salt and pepper.

Tear the bread into small pieces into a bowl removing the crusts. Pour over milk and leave for about ten minutes or so to soften. Add the pork and beef, half the parsley and oregano and garlic, salt and pepper. Knead well with clean hands to work all the ingredients together. There shouldn’t be any big lumps of bread left. Add the egg to bind and continue working the mixture together. spoon out about a dessertspoonful of mixture and form into a golf ball size/shape.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and fry the balls briskly until browned. Put to one side. Add all the ingredients for the sauce to the pan and bring to the boil squashing the cherry tomatoes into the sauce as you go. Once bubbling return the balls to the pan, turn the heat down low and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Just before serving check the seasoning, then serve with a sharp lemony salad.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under family budget cooking, home cooking, Italian food, Organic meat, Uncategorized