Good food is quick food

IMG_6874I still can’t work out why, despite working long hours and travelling frequently, I used to have so much more time for – well – just about everything. I have one child, not four like my mum did. I drive, there’s a supermarket just down the road and I use disposables – mum didn’t tick any of these boxes. Yet, we were all well fed, beautifully clothed and the house was pristine.

I only work part-time and have the luxury of child care. Still, it seems a major achievement to clean the loo these days. My previous impeccable organising skills seem to be deserting me in my hour of need. I dread when there’s a knock at the door – what if someone is ‘popping in’ to visit and they can’t get to the living room without first completing an advanced obstacle course.

My love of cooking, baking and entertaining is taking a back seat to endless viewings of the haka (Master a-tad-off-three is All Black level proficient) or getting somewhere in the nick of time to catch the little guy as he flings himself off somewhere high. And, of course there’s the new kittens (yes, plural) thrown into the mix – I know you told me so, they are quite a lot of work!

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d find myself writing about something I don’t eat – meatballs. After all, I am a flexitarian (far too confusing to detail what meats I may eat). Reality check. If it can be prepared quickly, cooked quickly and is tasty, it will do.

IMG_6866I’m not usually a huge fan of recipe books from the US – I can’t really pinpoint why. Maybe it’s a combination of the conversion thing and some random ingredients? So I was surprised on many fronts that I quite liked what I saw in The Meatball Shop Cookbook (lent to me by my Scottish friend, who uses it all the time). This is a little gem – I want to go to New York just to check the place out – ok, and maybe do a tad of shopping too.

Back to the balls. So far, I’ve given five recipes a go – they are all so incredibly easy, it is embarrassing. None are rocket science, but all are tasty. The big ‘secret’ seems to be in the cooking. A very high oven – 225C – and packing the meatballs tightly together when cooking them. Here’s the (very slightly modified) chicken meatball recipe. I used finely chopped chicken breast as I don’t have a mincer. Pre-minced chicken tends to be pricey, so use what you have. In saying this, thigh meat is probably tastiest.

What you need

Splash olive oil

500g ground chicken

1 egg

1/3 C fresh breadcrumbs (I toast bread and process it into crumbs)

1/3 C chopped parsley

2 T dry white wine

1 tsp ground fennel

Good grind of salt and pepper

Put it together

Pre-heat the oven to 225C.

Choose a suitable size baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and spread the oil around the dish with a disposable kitchen towel.

IMG_6862Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. I use my hands – if you don’t like the meat feel between your fingers (like me), use gloves.

IMG_6867Roll the mixture into even sized balls and pack tightly together in even rows. I made these bigger than usual, so got only 15 balls – usually, I’d get about 25. (If your dish is too big, you can use foil to create a snug fit.)

IMG_6868Roast for 20 minutes – maybe less, depending on the size of the meatballs. The best way to tell if they are cooked is to insert a thermometer into the centre of a few of the balls (take dish from the oven, rather than leave the oven door open when you do this). It should hit 74C (165F).

The book recommends you allow the meatballs to cool for five minutes in the baking dish before serving. In this case, I let them rest for a couple of minutes before popping into my very complicated tomato sauce* for a few minutes.
There you have it, a meal to suit the whole family. Great for the freezer (cooked or uncooked). What I really love about this unfussy book is how user friendly it is, with lots of helpful hints. The photographs are good, but also unfussy, and feature real serving suggestions. Go on, get your order in now – free delivery if you go the Book Depository way.

* Tomato Sauce. Put a tin of crushed tomatoes into a fry pan over a low/medium heat. Season with salt and pepper and a splash of extra virgin oil oil. Cook until reduced (30-40 minutes). A life saver.

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