31 August 2012

Herby meatballs with tomato and spinach

I really try not to be a lazy cook, and mostly enjoy the repetition which comes with a lot of recipes, whether it's chopping things into neat little cubes, or carefully layering and icing cakes, but browning meatballs really bores me. I don't know why, but it does. Maybe it's because you spend ages making neat little balls, which then inevitably get squashed and lopsided when you start to fry them. Maybe it's because I can't seem to stop them from sticking to the pan, and by the time you're on the third batch (I'm careful not to overcrowd the pan, you see) there are little burnt bits stuck to the sides. Whatever it is, I run out of patience. Which is why this recipe is perfect. No browning involved. Hurrah!

There are also no eggs, and no breadcrumbs, so the meatballs are really light, and I like to add a few big handfuls of spinach, to make them even healthier.

Herby meatballs with tomato and spinach
Serves 4-5

500g minced pork (or a combination of pork and lamb if you'd rather)
1 onion
A handful of soft herbs, finely chopped (any combination of parsley, oregano, new thyme leaves, marjoram...)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 - 3 big handfuls of spinach
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Finely dice the onion (I whack the onion in the food processor for a few seconds to get it really small), and combine in a large bowl with the pork, the herbs, and two of the cloves of garlic. Season with a good pinch of salt and lots of pepper, then mix it well, really squishing everything together.

Roll the mixture into small, walnut-sized balls (you should get about 25 of them) then put them to one side.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large, shallow pan with a lid, and add the remaining garlic. Fry it gently until it just starts to turn golden, then add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Carefully place the meatballs into the tomato, it doesn't matter if they're not submerged, but don't stir them at this point or the meatballs are at risk of breaking up. Bring the tomatoes to the boil again, then turn down to a simmer and put the lid on. Simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes, then gently turn the meatballs. They should be firm and able to hold their shape by now. Put the lid back on and simmer for another hour, stirring every so often.

About 15 minutes before the end of cooking, take the lid off, add the spinach and carefully stir it through until it's wilted. The sauce should be nice and thick, but if you need to, continue to simmer without a lid until any excess liquid has evaporated. Serve with some rice or polenta, and enjoy.

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