Pork and Fennel Meatballs*

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I am very partial to a meatball and these particular ones are definitely one of my favourites. The main ingredients are pork, lemon and fennel and it’s a combination which works beautifully. For the sauce you can either use a favourite jar or make a simple tomato sauce by softening finely chopped onion/celery/carrot and some crushed garlic in a few tablespoons of oil then add some tinned chopped tomatoes and simmer for about 15 minutes while you make the meatballs. For this amount I would use two tins of tomatoes.

Having a gold medal in laziness means I don’t bother to brown these in a pan first, it saves on washing up and the end result is perfectly fine, just plop each one into the sauce as you make it and shoogle the pan occasionally to make sure they are all settled into the sauce.

For beautifully soft meatballs you need to add some sort of bulking agent to stop them being too dense and bouncy. Traditionally breadcrumbs soaked in a little milk is used but if you can’t eat bread (or don’t have any conveniently to hand to make some crumbs) you could also use porridge oats or even some ground almonds. I’d still soak the oats for a few minutes before you start though. For breadcrumbs I buy an unsliced white loaf, remove all the crusts, cut it into chunks then blitz in a food processor. Spread out on an oven tray and allow them to dry out for a couple of hours. Then weigh out what you need and bag the rest up for the freezer. Very handy for other things like fishcakes or chicken kiev. Or more meatballs. Also if you like things a little pokey you could add a seeded chopped fresh chilli. Or two.

Pork, Lemon and Fennel Meatballs

1kg pork mince
1 onion, peeled but leave the root on
1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
150g white breadcrumbs, soaked in a little milk
50g grated parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
2 tsp fennel seeds
large handful of finely chopped parsley
salt and pepper

Put the mince into a roomy bowl and break it up a little with your fingers. Using the coarse side of a grater, grate the onion into a purée and add to the bowl then use the fine side to remove the zest from the lemon and grate the garlic (or use a garlic crusher) ad both to the bowl.

Then squeeze some of the milk out of the breadcrumbs and add to the bowl along with all the other ingredients.

You cannot make a decent meatball without getting your hands dirty so get your hands in and squish everything together. Try to use a fairly light hand though, again we don’t want dense and bouncy so squeezing the life out of the mixture isn’t recommended. Once everything looks to be evenly distributed it’s time to make your balls.

I use a small ice cream scoop – the old fashioned kind with a handle you squeeze, not the more modern ones with no moving parts. I find this the most satisfying way to make them because all but the last one will be the same size (the last one is always the smallest or the largest depending on how much mixture is left) I find the quickest way to do this is unroll a length of baking parchment onto the worktop then scoop all the mixture out one at a time. Then wet your hands, take each one and roll it very gently into a ball before dropping it into the tomato sauce. As I stated further up, occasionally shoogle the pan to make sure everything is settling in ok, you really don’t want to stir anything just yet because all that hard work will be undone and you will end up with a pan of mince and tomatoes.

Once everything is in bring the sauce up to a very very gentle simmer, cover the pan and leave things well alone for 20 minutes or so. This will allow the meatballs to poach and set.

After 20 minutes you can stir things around and see how the sauce is doing. If it’s a bit thin, leave the lid off the pan, turn the heat up a bit and reduce the sauce to the consistency you prefer.

Meatballs are always served with rice in our house, it’s just what we prefer, but they are also really lovely with pasta or mashed potatoes. I’d sprinkle a little extra parsley and parmesan over before serving.

 

*you have no idea how many titles I deleted. I am basically still in the fifth form (in my mind)

 

Easter Inspiration

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I do a lot of baking but I don’t eat 99% of what I make because the majority is for customers or my employer and I don’t actually have a cake/bakery item craving, I just enjoy the creative process. But I do have a thing about almond flavours – marzipan, amaretto and frangipane in particular – I always put frangipane on my mince pies for example and I created Scollens for Christmas last year. I also make the finest almond slice in the world (it is official). Now I bring you this utterly scrumptious thing.

The simplicity of the method belies the delicious result, and as with lots of the things I make you can tinker about with the additions to whatever takes your fancy. In fact I’m not a fan of fruit and chocolate as a rule but the chocolate/orange combination really works here. This was originally a Simon Hopkinson tart recipe which (I think) he adapted from a Jeremy Lee recipe. I took the filling changed it to my own tastes, dropped the pastry and baked it in a dish. Such is the way with recipes – nothing is really new and everything is almost always evolving into something else. I urge you to try this. I had it with double cream but I reckon some extra thick or clotted cream would be even better.

A pet hate of mine is a recipe which states 100g of something when you can only buy it in either 125g or 150g (I’m looking at you ground almonds) so I’ve stated 125g here but if the bag you have is 150g it won’t really make any difference and you won’t have 25g of useless ground almonds cluttering up and drying out in your baking cupboard. Unfortunately a whole tub of candied peel is too much but it does keep quite well and I am extremely confident that you will make this again long before it is unusable. Likewise with chocolate chips – one of those small bags from the baking bit in the supermarket is fine but equally you could just chop up some chocolate you have lying around – aim for about 80g or so.

Other things. I happen to like pine kernels but flaked almonds or chopped pistachios would also work really well. And make sure the butter is nice and soft. If it isn’t slice it up and give it a minute or so on a low setting in the microwave. If you don’t do alcohol add a little fruit juice – pear would be good. You could also add some chopped, peeled pear if you fancy instead of orange zest. I might try that myself. Or some stoned, fresh cherries. They would definitely work.

One last thing – this can easily be doubled or tripled for a crowd. I did it for 12 last night…

Chocolate Orange Frangipane Pudding

This serves a polite 4 (or 2-3 less delicate portions)

Pre-heat oven to 180ºc, butter a small ovenproof dish

100g unsalted butter, softened
75g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
50g plain flour
1 large egg
grated zest of 2 oranges
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
grated nutmeg – about a quarter
2 tbsp Marsala (be generous)
1tbs orange liqueur
½ tsp vanilla paste
1/2 a tub of candied peel (supermarket tub)
200g marzipan, chopped into small dice
Dark chocolate chips
40g pine kernels

Begin by beating the butter and sugar together for a good five minutes on a high speed until pale and fluffy.

Beat in the egg.

Lower the speed of the mixer and tip in the flour and almonds, orange and lemon zest, nutmeg, booze and vanilla.

Stir in the candied peel, marzipan and the chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into the ovenproof dish and level the top.

Scatter over the pine kernels.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until risen and golden brown and just set in the middle when pressed with your little finger.

Allow to rest for 10 minutes then dust with icing sugar and serve with cream or ice cream.

(For the supper club I made little individual bakes and put a layer of orange curd in the bottom of each dish. And topped with icing sugar and a little bit of edible glitter – my pudding motto is when you can, ALWAYS use glitter!)