Saturday, May 28, 2011

Meatballs in sugo... in sandwiches!

I show you how to make-a tha meat-a-balls!  Seriously though, gratuitous ethnic stereotyping aside, MEATBALLS! I made them, and they are stupendously good.  Tasty, delicate, with an almost creamy texture but still plenty of oomph.  They have shot right to the top of my winter stodge must haves.  I was a little nervous, never having made them before.   And I recklessly decided I didn't approve of any of the recipes I looked up for them and made them up on the fly.  I thought it would be hard and super fiddly, but it was remarkably straightfoward.  And they are excellent.  Also, there's just shitloads of them so I now have a trusty stockpile.

Making meatballs also required some important deliberations.  How big to make them? (I went with slightly bigger than a golf ball).  What mince to use?  Should I put cheese in them? What kind of cheese?  Well I wanted fluffy moist meatballs and my guts told me that this meant ricotta.  Sometimes my guts are so on the money.  Serve them on spaghetti or in a crusty white bread roll?  I let Leith make that call: he chose rolls, and having just eaten one, I can say with some authority that he was right to do so.  Also did I mention there's shitloads? So spaghetti and meatballs later this week for us!

  • 300g pork mince
  • 250g lean beef mince
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • wedge of ricotta (about 200g)
  • 1 egg
  • fresh basil (lots)
  • fresh continental parsley (quite a bit)
  • 3 crusty white bread rolls (or two rolls and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs if you have them)
  • reggiano parmesan
  • rocket
  • lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 litre tomato sugo
To start with, if you don't already have breadcrumbs you can make some like I did, so heat the oven to about 180C and put one of the chopped up rolls in there to dry it out.  Then start preparing your ingredients for your meatbally mush.  Grate about 1/3 cup of parmesan (I didn't want to use too much as I knew I would be adding ricotta as well).  Then smash up the garlic in a mortar and pestle.  I deliberately smashed it instead of finely chopping it as I wanted all the juices to come out and mix right through the mince.  Then finely chop the basil and parsley.

Put everything for the meatball mixture in a bowl (except the bread which was still in the oven): the two types of mince, the herbs, garlic, egg and salt and pepper, and mixed it thoroughly with your hands.  By the time this is done the bread is probably ready to crumb so take it from the oven (but leave the oven on) and put the pieces in a plastic bag.  Then - and this is super fun - smash the bread to smithereens and steamroll them with a nice heavy rolling pin.  I decided that there were still some slightly too large pieces and wanted only fine ones in the meatballs, so I sieved the whole lot into my mixture.  Then mix through the bread crumbs and the ricotta, taking care not to work the mixture too much.

Now it is time to form the meatballs! I deliberated for some time over how big they should be, until I settled on what seemed an appropriate size.  I was also delighted to see how many I had - this recipe produced 30 meatballs.  I decided to cook just over half, and to freeze one dozen uncooked meatballs for another frosty Winters' eve.  Lay the meatballs out on a tray and pop them in the oven for about eight minutes.  I really added this step because I was scared they'd immediately disintegrate in the sauce I was using, but I also wanted them to do most of their cooking in the sauce, not baking to a crisp in the oven.  After eight minutes they were only just starting to brown on the outside, and I decided this was about right.

While the meatballs are in the oven, heat up your tomato sauce.  I used the last of the tomato sugo I made at the end of Summer - two small containers, one with added herbs and one with added chilli.  The chilli in particular was a good addition to the meatballs.  Defrost/heat the sauce in a heavy pot until it is simmering.  Then once the meatballs come out of the oven, very gently place them one at a time into the pot, making sure they are all submerged in the sauce.

From this point you can simmer them as long as you want (but at least 20 mins to cook the meatballs all the way through) I simmered them for close to an hour, to reduce the sauce to a really thick consistency.  About 10 minutes before serving them, start preparing all your other bits.  First of all, heat the oven - even if you're using fresh bread rolls, five minutes of warming them in the oven can just tip them over the edge.  Peel some long strips of parmesan.  And dress your rocket with a little olive oil, lemon juice and cracked pepper.

Finally it is time to construct the sandwiches!  Start by placing three or four meatballs on the base of the roll.  You might want to break each meatball in half and really spread them out over the roll.  Then ladle over the tomato sauce, as much as the sandwich can take! Add as much cheese as you fancy, and top with rocket. Ta da!  Home-made meatball sandwiches on a cold Winter's night.  You're welcome.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kale chips

Have I ever mentioned, a few thousand times or more, about how I love chips? All chips.  Hot chips.  Cold chips.  Crinkle cut chips.  French fries.  Chips with gravy.  Chips with cheese.  Chips with vinegar.  BUT NEVER CHIPS WITH SAUCE.  Sauce on chips is gross.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, chips.  So in a quest to eat delicious, crisp, salty snacky things, but cram some nutrients in them as well, I made kale chips.  Baked them in fact (see how virtuous I am?).  Kale, Tuscan Cabbage or Cavollero as it is also known,  is one of those vegetables that seems to get a good wrap - have you noticed this?  Healthy types seem to bang on about it a lot.  But then it very yummy.  It also has much less moisture than most green leafy vegetables, thus making it an excellent chipping candidate.  So I made some.  And get this... they were as good as potato chips!! I know, right?

So anyway, here's how.

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • two teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper
  • Lemon oil  

Set the oven to about 200 C. Cut the kale leaves from the stalks, and into appropriately chip-sized pieces.  Mix your spices.  Then, using a pastry brush, lightly brush the lemon oil over both sides of the kale, and sprinkle the spices over.  Toss, and lay them out in a baking tray. 

Pop them in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.  Check them periodically as the crinkly edges will tend to burn if the oven's too hot.

Once done they will go all crackly.  Serve them with some smashed up pappadams for a delicious snacky treat.  You and your gentleman companion will polish them off in no time, I assure you.

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

It's been a while, hasn't it?  Sorry about that.  For the last month or more I've been positively engulfed in a never-ceasing onslaught of frenzied work (for which they pay me all the money).  But I've been getting home late and eating a lot of poached eggs on toast, and neglecting everything else  - like this blog.  As if that weren't enough, I then decided to go on an extreme detox, to counter how run-down the work frenzy was making me.  So I went 10 days without alcohol, caffeine, dairy, sugar, salt, fried food, wheat and yeast.  Yowza.  In case you were wondering, it was hard at first, and then not hard, and by the end I felt amazing.

But if Sunday's dinner of sausage rolls and hot chips has taught us anything, it's that the detox is over and there is delicious food to be made.  Like this curry.

  • Cauliflower (half a head)
  • 400g chickpeas
  • fresh spinach
  • 1 brown onion
  • 1 long green chilli
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 large tablespoons of curry powder
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 1 tin crushed tomatoes
  • garam masala
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt & pepper to taste

Finely chop your onion, garlic,chilli and curry powder and fry in a small amount of oil until fragrant.  Add the chopped cauliflower florets and rinsed chickpeas and toss through the spicy oil.

After frying the vegetables for a minute or two add the diced tomatoes and coconut milk.  At this point I thought it looked a bit too think and added about a cup of water as well.  Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 15 mins.

Once the cauliflower is softening and the sauce is thick, add the spinach leaves, some salt and pepper to taste, about a teaspoon of garam masala, and the juice of one lemon. Stir through until the spinach is wilted, for another minute or two.  Then serve with rice, quinoa, pappadams or flat bread.