Monday, 8 April 2013
... it really felt like Spring today, although by the time you're reading this it'll no doubt be icy cold again in the UK but these few hours of sunshine really helped everything feel like the planet was waking up to a new year at last... the noisy but insanely cute lambs frolicking in the field opposite the cottage help quite a bit too and as The Viking and I sat on the bench in the garden that looks out over the perfect bucolic scene we both felt warmly serene for the first time this year...
... the nights are still achingly cold of course and once dinner time comes around it's still big bowls of warming stews and soups that the body requires. I've been wanting to make these little Italian meatballs ever since I made them a month or two ago when I, along with a group of other lovely bloggers, spent the day with Florence Knight the head chef of trendy modern-Italian restaurant Polpetto... I remember how simple and fun they were to make and how surprised I was by the fact that she baked them rather than fried them... I don't fully remember the recipe and I stupidly didn't write it down but I feel that i've re-created them here quite faithfully with a few belleau kitchen changes of course...
polpette - small Italian meatballs
the popular dish that is Italian meatballs with tomato sauce is in fact not very Italian at all... it's an American interpretation of polpette that has evolved from the traditional over the decades to become the wonderful dish we now all know and love... polpette is usually made from 2 types of meat, a ground beef and a ground veal and never served with tomato sauce but probably served as an appetiser or as a dish between starter and main course... i've combined the old and the new by creating a thick and rich tomato sauce and i've also used ground steak mince and sausage meat which were both part of the incredible package of meat and cheese sent to me by Farmison... the recipe may be slightly fiddly but I woke early this morning and had the whole dish prepped and made, with the house cleaned in between, in just over two hours... divine...
for the tomato sauce
this sauce needs a minimum of two hours, longer if possible
2 medium onions - finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
butter and olive oil
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 x tin's worth of half white wine, half stock or water
rosemary, thyme and oregano
for the polpette - makes 35 small meatballs
1 medium onion - finely chopped
1 clove of garlic - crushed
2 large, good quality sausages - any kind will do - roughly 250g
450g minced steak
half a loaf of basic white bread - crusts removed and roughly torn
a dash of milk
to start with we're going to caramelise the onions for both the tomato sauce and the meatballs so use all three onions and all the cloves of garlic at the same time... add them to a large hot pan with olive oil and a little butter and gently saute them for about 20 mins on a medium heat, with a pinch or two of sugar and some chopped fresh herbs... keep your eye on them, they want a little golden colour but you don't want them to stick...
once they're done spoon out about a third and set aside, then add the tinned tomatoes, wine and stock to the remaining onions, turn the heat to it's very lowest and let them plop away gently for at least an hour and a half if not longer.
place the bread in a large bowl add the milk and stir until it's all absorbed... next add the rest of the ingredients and the onions and get your hands stuck in and bring at all together ensuring it's well mixed
prepare a baking tray with foil, then pour some oil onto your hands and form little meatballs from the meat mixture, you want them the size of a large marble... lay them out evenly on the baking tray and then bake in the oven on 180C for 20 mins or until golden and gorgeous
add them to the sauce before serving either as they are or with some pasta or rice
eat and of course, enjoy!