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)

 

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