Mid-20s Malaise

Struggling against the inevitable since 1986!

Recipe: Veggie Meatballs

It’s the Monday of a long weekend, and I’ve hardly left the kitchen. It’s been great! I’ve made ontbijtkoek (Dutch spiced breakfast cake), olive and rosemary focaccia (look out for that recipe soon), spinach and potato gnocchi, and this, my veggie meatballs. I used to make spaghetti bolognese a lot, imagining meatballs to be difficult, for some reason. They aren’t, and they’re much tastier! The meat becomes so tender. Oh yeah, the name is a little misleading: they aren’t a vegetarian alternative; rather, they’re crammed with vegetables.

I don’t like or eat a lot of meat. If it wasn’t for chicken and the gamier red meats (venison, kangaroo and duck), I’d gladly go vegetarian. I usually cook vegetarian meals for myself, and if there’s meat involved, it’s counterbalanced by plenty of vegetables.

Not so my boyfriend, whose diet is built around carbohydrates, dairy and meat. (That said, he recently introduced peas to his repertoire.) He’s a uni student, so it’s to be expected, but I do worry about his health. He’s been at home all weekend, working on his final major assessment for this semester, so I’m taking the meatballs to him for dinner tonight. It’s a recipe I’ll keep in mind for when I have nieces, nephews or kids of my own to feed, because the vegetables are well-hidden, so the kids don’t even know they’re eating healthy food! Mwahaha!

Another bonus is that the veggies make the meat go further, making this an economical meal. I get three or four servings out of the quantities below.

Veggie Meatballs

For meatballs:
Half an onion
A small carrot
A small zucchini
A handful of mushrooms
250 grams minced meat of your choice (I usually use veal and pork, today I used beef)
A small handful of grated cheese (parmesan or romano are best)
Two tablespoons breadcrumbs (optional)
An egg (optional)

For sauce (or use your own standard tomato pasta sauce recipe):
Half an onion
Two cloves garlic, crushed
One tin crushed tomatoes
One cup beef or vegetable stock
Two tablespoons tomato paste
Splash of soy sauce (optional)
Handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (optional)
Two large bay leaves (optional)

Grate the vegetables and put them in a bowl. Add the meat. (It’s about half of a standard Australian supermarket packet. I know I should be a food wanker and only use hand-ground meat from an organic butcher or some shit, but it’s a half hour walk to anything like that for me, so fuck that noise.)

Mush them all together with your hands. At this point, you can add the cheese and/or the egg and/or the breadcrumbs. This helps the meatballs to hold their shape, and the cheese is just tasty. You can also add some fresh or dried herbs if you feel like it, but it’s not necessary: these babies really draw up the flavours of the sauce. Salt and pepper the mix, and mush it all together some more.

Take a half-handful of the mix and roll it into a ball. Repeat until you have a tray that looks like this.

Now for the sauce! Chop your onion, and saute it and the garlic together with a little olive oil. Add all the other ingredients, stir together and simmer for about five minutes. Give it a grind (or twelve, if you’re like me) of pepper. Then, drop the meatballs in like you’re poaching them. Spoon some sauce over them, cover, and simmer for about half an hour. Alternately, you can pop them in a casserole dish, pour the sauce over them and whack them in a moderate oven for half an hour.

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