Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Just what is it that you do with turkey mince? - Ottolenghi Turkey Meatballs with roasted pepper and sweet chilli sauce

I didn't spend an inordinate amount of time mulling over it, but I did used to wonder what was the point of turkey mince. I mean, yes, OK, I could substitute it for beef in a bolognese maybe, and I tried it but it didn't seem just right; kinda dry, grainy... not the best. Shepherd's Pie? No, same problem... and I have never seen shepherds looking after turkeys.

So, when I treated myself to the wonderful Ottolenghi cookbook and had finally dragged myself away from the cake section of the book, I noticed a recipe for turkey meatballs with a roasted pepper and sweet chilli sauce and decided that there was my answer. The next time I was shopping I bought the turkey mince I had occasionally wondered about and gave this recipe a whirl. How glad am I that I did. Everybody who has ever been forced to eat these chez Lola and Finn has adored them, even Lola and Finn. Bonus.

I see so little wrong with this recipe. A little faff initially maybe but the results are absolutely worth it. Whilst I do not profess to know the calorific content or all the other things that we seem to watch and count these days, I think they are probably the healthiest meatballs there are, being that the meat is white and lean, after being briefly browned in oil they are finished off in the oven, and I believe all the other ingredients to be nutritionally good stuff. And turkey mince is cheap. Really cheap, because probably, like me, many often look at it and wonder what you actually do with it. The answer is now before your eyes.

Turkey and sweetcorn meatballs with roasted pepper sauce - adapted  from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Serves 2 -3, plus Lola and Finn


For the meatballs:

100g sweetcorn kernels (fresh or frozen)
3 slices of stale white bread, crusts removed (or 4 tbsp of breadcrumbs)
500g turkey mince
1 free range egg
4 spring onions, finely chopped (or on this occasion I used a banana shallot)
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
vegetable oil for frying

For the roasted pepper sauce:

4 red peppers
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
25g coriander, stalks and leaves
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 small mild chilli, deseeded
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)


Preheat oven to 200C.

Quarter, deseed and cut off the white parts of the peppers, place in a roasting tray lined with baking paper and toss with 2 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Roast in the oven for 35 minutes or until soft.

Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover with cling film. (Although, for reference, I didn't) When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, them although it isn’t essential for this sauce so don't worry if some skin is left on.

Place the peppers in a food processor with any roasting juices and then add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Process until smooth, then taste and adjust the salt if necessary. Set aside.

For the meatballs, place a heavy, non-stick frying pan over high heat and throw in the corn kernels. Toss them in the hot pan for 2-3 minutes until lightly blackened. Remove and leave to cool.

Soak the bread in cold water for a minute, then squeeze well and crumble into a large bowl. (I had breadcrumbs that I had blitzed for an earlier recipe and used what I had of these)

Add the rest of the ingredients, except the oil, and mix well with your hands.

Test the seasoning of the meatball mixture by frying a teaspoon of the mixture to taste it. Adjust seasoning if desired. This is really important. Turkey mince is horribly bland and you will need to add more seasoning at this point. When you're happy with your sample taste, then you can make the meat balls.
With wet hands, shape the mince mixture into balls. I make smaller ones for Lola and Finn and ones the size of maybe a ping pong ball for adults. Place in fridge for 30 minutes to firm up if necessary.

Pour a 5mm depth of oil into your heavy frying pan and allow to heat up well. Fry balls in two batches (or more depending on the size of the pan – don’t crowd) until they are golden brown.

Put the meatballs in the oven for about 15 minutes to ensure they have cooked through.

Put the pepper sauce into a pan and warm through gently.

Serve hot or warm with the pepper sauce drizzled over. I served this with rice this time, but usually couscous is my carb of choice.

There is often sauce leftover. It freezes ok, but I find needs livening up with a squeeze of lime juice after it has been frozen. The sauce also goes wonderfully with chicken or fish.


  1. Just gorgeous, Stella! And I've always felt the same way about ground turkey, so I trust you that this meal tastes as delicious as it looks!


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