Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Calabrese-style Meatballs

I've suddenly found myself working full time for a short while in order to complete an important project - normally I only work three days in the week. It has left me a little panicky at the loss of all that lovely lazy time I've got used to having with my small girl, noodling around the museum or the zoo, or making things for the fairies in the garden (for real - there are five of them!) and so on. But it is just divine to come home starving, and my wonderful spouse has dinner ready. Tonight we had these meatballs. They are incredibly good, totally egg-free and because they are cooked by simmering in a tomato sauce - they are soft and gentle and very comforting.

The original recipe has the juice of 1 lemon and it's zest which we're not keen on, we prefer just a little zest. The recipe makes enough for 6 but don't reduce it - it freezes fantastically.

3 thick slices of bread, white or wholemeal
1/2 cup of milk
2 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp salt
500g pork mince
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley
black pepper

Remove crusts from the bread, break into pieces and mix with the milk and oil. Rest for 15 minutes then mash with a fork until it is all smooth. Place the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle and grind to a paste.

Mix together with hands all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Shape tablespoons of mixture into balls (really you can make them any size you like - I'm quite partial to tiny ones).

The recipe at this point suggest refrigerating the meatballs for 20 minutes - I put them straight into the sauce to no ill affect.

Tomato sauce
1 tbs olive oil
1 small onion, chopped finely
750ml tomato passata (bottled tomato sauce - or the equivalent in tinned tomatoes mushed up with the potato masher)
1 1/2 cups of water
salt and pepper to taste
2 small chilies (optional)

Heat oil in a large frying pan and cook onion until softened but not coloured. Add remaining sauce ingredients and cook uncovered over a medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Can I confess to another short cut here - if I'm short on time (often) I don't add any water and just bring the sauce to a simmer before proceeding...).

With the sauce at simmering point (a rolling boil will lead to meatball disintegration) add the meatballs to the sauce, cook uncovered for about 12 minutes, or until cooked through. They may need some gentle turning.

Serve with pasta and more grated Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

"stained glass" star biscuits

Um.. a slightly late Christmas biscuit posting. These use the recipe for Laura's shortbread, with the addition of crushed boiled lollies.

They can be any shape, of course, limited only by what biscuit cutters you have access to. In previous years I've made them heart-shaped with a circular cut-out (using the end of a large icing tube to make the circle). The biscuits are best placed on non-stick baking paper before doing the 'cut-out' (as above) as they become very fragile.

The boiled lollies are crushed in a mortar and pestle, though really the pieces just need to be small enough to fit in the cut-out. Our lollies are ground into a fine powder as biscuit making is now a mother and daughter activity, and the assistant cook delights in smashing ingredients to a powder. This can be a little messy (fragments of lolly flying everywhere so it gets done outside, allowing the ants to get a treat.

As a side note, I found it very productive to give Hannah about a quarter of the dough to make her own biscuits - . Her's were Christmas trees decorated as traffic lights (three circular cut-outs). This keeps both of us happy (my desire for the perfect biscuit and her need for creativity).