Showing posts with label meatballs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label meatballs. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How to Make Easy Meatballs à la Jamie Oliver

Got sausage? Make meatballs easily!
I love meatballs in sauce but who has time to mix and roll the meat? I learned this method of how to make easy meatballs on an old Jamie Oliver show that I can't seem to find a clip of for you, so this is my quick take, with an updated video. If you've been reading along here, you know I'm in Dubai now, but I didn't have the heart to delete my old introduction. It's part of my journey.


Last summer when I was in Houston and feeling pretty smug about farmers’ markets and pastured meat and eggs, I made meatballs and spaghetti for my aged grandmother. Because she loves it. Here I am in Cairo and I have been the worst of the worst type of modern shopper. I came back from a visit to the States, to Providence, with almost 42 pounds of pork in my suitcases. Not only were they not sourced locally, clearly, I am also pretty sure that they were not from pastured pigs, seeing as how I bought them at a Super Walmart.

Philosophically speaking, there is no justifying such excess. Emotionally speaking, I am feeling deprived in Cairo. Of close friends, a school connection, normal day-to-day activities, driving my own car, imported (read: good) wine at the grocery store and pork. Among other things. Self pity: It’s how I justify hauling pork products across international borders.

And cooking them is how I make myself feel better when I am headed towards down. There is nothing quite like a bowl of pasta and meatballs in a rich tomato sauce to cheer a person up. Don’t you agree? Unless it is a simmering pot of rich tomato sauce bubbling on the stove and filling the whole house with spicy Italian aromas. This recipe fills the need on both counts.

(On the other hand, all of my vegetables, beef and chicken are locally sourced. And I do believe most of the fish is too. My Carrefour doesn’t really sell many imported things in the fresh departments so choices and prices are seasonal. Just two examples: I haven’t seen a single non-frozen corn on the cob since I moved here. And I am sorely missing rhubarb, which must not be grown here, even in the spring. I am guessing because we never have a freeze in winter. )

This method of meatballing (though not the sauce) comes straight from Jamie Oliver and, if you have access to fresh sausage in casing, is the fastest, easiest method of making meatballs that I have ever witnessed. You know how you see something on TV or in a magazine (or Pinterest!) and you say, “Now, why didn’t I think of that?!!” Exactly my reaction when I watched Jamie make these meatballs for the first time, back in 2008.

1 1/4 lbs or about 565g fresh sausage – I like spicy Italian sausage.
Olive oil
1 small onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1 can (14 oz or 400g) finely chopped or crushed tomatoes
1 small can (6 oz or 165g) tomato paste – the really thick stuff, not sauce
1 heaped tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf
12 oz or 340g pasta of your choice
Parmesan for serving (optional)

Pinch off little pieces of sausage from the casing and pop them in a non-stick skillet. (I tried to find a clip from the Jamie show with him doing it but to no avail. So you are stuck with me.) I pinched off small pieces and finished with 42 bite-sized meatballs. Yes. I counted them before they went in the sauce. (Forty in the pan plus the two I had already eaten.)

Fry them until browned nicely on all sides, shaking the pan occasionally to turn them.

Wasn't that quick? Meatballs in minutes. When your meatballs are cooked, you can drain them on some paper towels or do it my way: Tilt the skillet and push the meatballs up the slope so the grease can collect in one side of the skillet. This saves paper towels, possible clean up of one more dish and one step in the sauce process.

(At this point, your meatballs are finished and would be great as appetizers with a toothpick and dipping sauce. Or made into Swedish meatballs or added to an Italian Wedding Soup or whatever your heart desires. Or you carry on and make the tomato sauce I love.)

Still with me? Okay! Chop your onions and garlic. Sauté them in a drizzle of olive oil, until they are soft and translucent.


Add in the can of crushed tomatoes and one can of water.

Add in the can of tomato paste and one can of water. Stir really well until the tomato paste is completely dissolved into the sauce.

Now, add the sugar, oregano and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer.

Add in the cooked meatballs and then simmer the sauce with a lid on, for at least 30 minutes but for as long as an hour or two, if you have the time. My motto for tomato sauce is the longer the better. Give it a stir and check the level periodically, adding some water, if necessary, to keep it at a thickness and consistency you like.

Be careful here so your meatballs don't end up back in the grease.

When you are ready to serve, cook your pasta according to package instructions. With a side vegetable, this should serve four people. Just don’t let your sauce cook down too much or the pasta could be dry.

Top the pasta with sauce and count your meatballs out fairly among the plates. We also add a generous fresh grating of Parmesan. (Not pictured.)

With whole wheat penne! Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sopa de Albóndigas or Mexican Meatball Soup

When we were preparing to move to Cairo, I found a website that gives all kinds of personal advice, written by people who have been posted worldwide by the US State Department.  They clearly had a questionnaire they were following and I am sure this information was supposed to be for the benefit of other State Department folks but I came to it through a link from a friend (Thanks, Sabine!) and I wasted time researched, for many hours.  (Hey, you never know where we will go next!  Reading other country reports is still research.  Check it out!)  The questionnaire respondents were full of vital information about their postings in Cairo (and elsewhere) and I got a good laugh from many of the answers.  My favorite question though, because it was so unexpected, was “What would you leave behind?”  Some respondents didn’t answer this one.  But what I thought was the best answer, based on the annual Cairene weather forecast was ”An umbrella.”  And then, I moved to Cairo. 

The wind was howling last Friday and then the rain came on.  Yes, the rain came on.  Which, as you know, means – say it with me – a soup day.  And while a soup day in KL was JUST rainy, a Cairene soup day in February is also chilly.  Hallelujah!

LOOK! The aftermath:  It's all wet and our one piece of outdoor furniture
was blown clear into the yard by the strong winds.  Yeah, our shipment hasn't been delivered yet.
   Forty-four days and counting.  Thanks for caring.

I made a lovely soup adapted from a recipe in my Christmas cookbook, which you have all heard about before, Fried Chicken and Champagne.  This is not fancy but it has a lovely flavor that puts me in mind of tortilla soup.  I think it must be the cilantro (fresh coriander) and ground cumin.  I can highly recommend it.

For the soup:
1 tablespoon butter
Olive oil
1 small onion
1 medium carrot
2-3 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tomatoes
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano (I didn’t have any so I substituted regular oregano.)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 bunch of cilantro or fresh coriander
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock  (Water and stock cubes are fine.)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Sea salt
Black pepper

For the meatballs:
1 lb or 500g of ground beef
1 small bunch of cilantro or fresh coriander
1/4 cup of uncooked long-grain rice
2 eggs
Sea salt
Black pepper

Chop your onion and carrots and slice the garlic finely in the melted butter with a little drizzle of olive oil.   Cook until they are tender.

Meanwhile, chop your tomatoes, celery and cilantro.

When your sautéed vegetables are ready, add the tomatoes, cilantro, celery, then the cumin, oregano and cayenne. 

Add in the chicken stock and the tomato paste and the half-teaspoon of sugar.

Bring to the boil and then let this simmer while you make your meatballs. 

For the meatballs, chop the cilantro finely and mix it in well with the ground beef, rice, eggs and a good sprinkle of the salt and pepper.

Using a couple of teaspoons, drop small amounts of the mixture onto a flat surface and then roll them into little balls.  As you can see, I got 30+ meatballs out of my mixture.

Drop the meatballs gently into the simmering soup and stir very carefully to separate them.  You do not want to break them up.  

Simmer for another 20-30 minutes or until you are sure the meat and rice in the meatballs are cooked.  

You can garnish with some additional cilantro to serve, but I completely forgot that step.