It’s difficult to find out that you’ve been doing something the wrong way for years. This was most certainly the case with the way I make meatballs. For ages, I had soldiered on and done them the same way, using only beef mince. This is all well and good, but by doing so you run the risk of producing little beef-flavoured bullets because the mince tends towards dryness. The epiphany came for me a year or so ago, when I read about using a mix of half pork sausage meat, and half beef mince when making them, and life’s never been quite the same. Sure, I’ve seen plenty of recipes that call for a third of each of these, and then a third of veal mince, but when someone can find me a supplier and funder for the latter in Durban, then I’ll give it a go. Until then, this will do just fine, thank you.
Anyway – to make a rather lovely Sunday night meal, that’s just one notch above omelettes on the simplicity scale, you can’t do much better than this meatball recipe. You start with 500g beef mince (I like it quite lean) and 500g sausage meat, squeezed from the casings. Place in a bowl, and add a fistful or two of breadcrumbs*, some mixed herbs, one egg, crushed garlic and chill, and a touch of salt and pepper. Mix this all together – using your hands I’m afraid, no getting around it – and shape into little balls. I tend to make them about the diameter of a R5 coin.
With your meatballs ready, fry them off in batches in the tiniest touch of oil. You’re not looking to cook them, but just brown them for now. Put them into a baking dish as you go. When you’re done, place a knob of butter in the frying pan, add some garlic and chilli. Add two tins of chopped tomatoes, a squeeze of tomato past, some mixed herbs, and a sprinkle of sugar if it’s tasting a bit tart. Simmer away for about 15 mins or so. Once the tomato is fairly soft, pour over the meatballs and bake for 25 mins or so at 180ºC. About halfway through the cooking time, take out the dish and sprinkle over some parmesan and mozzarella. Once the cheese is golden and the meatballs are cooked through, you’re done.
You can either serve this with some cooked pasta or, more simply, with a couple of hunks of decent bread and a green salad. I tend more towards the latter, but either way it’s well a great dish. Delicious.
*Tip: if you ever find yourself with a substantial amount of stale bread, blitz it all up in a food processer and place in a Glad bag in the freezer. That way you’ve got breadcrumbs on demand for the foreseeable future. A touch of foresight required, but rather useful nonetheless.