Saturday, 4 May 2013
Sooooooo good for you and your soul! Pork Meatballs in Chunky Tomato and Mediterranean Vegetable Sauce.
Meatballs. A staple in this house, not least because is usually involves spaghetti (thumbs up from the Lola and Finn jury) are therapeutic to make (thumbs up from me) and because they happen to be ready soon after Phill comes through the door after being at the business end of a pretty underwhelming day (...just about has the energy to raise thumb to anything). Not that this is the place for it, but isn't it funny that in some industries, the higher one climbs, the more inept one becomes (or maybe they were always inept, but were good at shifting their ineptitude onto others...)
Anyway, before I end up weirdly politicising meatballs (?) let me return to meatballs as a conduit for joy, for good ingredients cooked well, for dinners around the table, digging in, chatting about anything and everything, a glass of red wine maybe, a scrape of Parmesan. Sun's out, life IS good! A slow walk past the 'chuck outs' in my local supermarket (a weekly 'thing' of mine) further reinforced the fact that the people in my area do not know what to do with pork, unless it is a chop, because I have lost count of the pork fillets/pork mince/pork belly I have acquired at a knock down price. At varying times my freezer is chocka with bits of pig. This week, organic pork mince and lots of it! In the trolley it went!
This recipe is a hotchpotch of stuff from my freezer, fridge and cupboard. I won't say store cupboard necessarily, but most of the ingredients are possibly somewhere in your kitchen. It's a pretty flexible recipe, in terms of the sauce at least. You might need to be a bit more exact when it comes to making the meatballs, so they don't fall apart. But the result was pretty pleasing. I was watching Masterchef in the week where the finalists were cooking with Mamma Agata at her cooking school in Italy with a myriad of simple ingredients, herbs, vegetables and the results looked so amazing! I can only hope that one day I could cook in such a way but for now, this is where I am at.
Pork Meatballs in Chunky Tomato and Mediterranean Vegetable Sauce
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad, and one other
500g pork mince
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
4 slices of stale bread, blitzed to breadcrumbs
1 large egg
salt and freshly ground pepper
For the sauce:
1 large onion, diced
a selection of vegetables, such as peppers, courgettes, aubergines cut into chunks (actually, I used some of a bag of frozen Mediterranean vegetables and some frozen peppers which I had in the freezer. I used a large handful of each bag, so I would eyeball it at about 300g of chopped vegetables)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
About 300ml of chicken stock
1 tbsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Serve with pasta of your choice.
Firstly make the meatballs. Combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your hand, or else pulse the ingredients in a food processor, taking care not to overwork.
Before shaping the whole mixture into balls, take a little and fry it (or taste it if the idea doesn't bother you) to check that you have seasoned the mixture enough. If you need more, add more.
Once you are happy with the seasoning, using damp hands form the mixture into balls. Put on a baking tray.
Preheat the oven to 180c.
Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. In a suitable pan, fry off the onion until it becomes translucent then add the vegetables and saute briefly. If you use frozen like I did, you will need to cook longer to allow the water to evaporate.
Add the tomatoes (puree and tinned) and stir to combine, then add the chicken stock and the sugar. add some seasoning now but be prepared to add more once the sauce has reduced.
Put the meatballs into the preheated oven and cook for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
While the meatballs are cooking, allow the sauce to simmer for about 15/20 minutes until it has perceptibly reduced and thickened. At the end of this time, check and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Once the meatballs are browned and cooked through, take them out of the oven, add them to the thickened sauce and stir them through carefully so as not to break them.
Serve the meatballs and sauce over cooked pasta with some Parmesan and a little basil garnish.