Sunday, 27 April 2014

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs and all things spherical

You can't beat a meatball- or a meatless ball- for a quick supper, a cheap filler, a crowd pleaser, a party favourite or even a sophisticated starter.

Whether you use pork, beef, turkey, lamb, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, rice or cheese- these little round parcels of tastiness hit the spot. They crop up in every cuisine- Asian, North African, Middle Eastern and Western- and everyone has their own version and favourites.

So, this week I've been cooking meatballs for supper- but also looking back at other dishes which are all-round pleasers.

Mozzarella stuffed Meatballs


350g beef mince
1 cup soft breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tablespoon chopped herbs eg. thyme, parsley or chives
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 ball mozzarella

1. Begin by mixing the beef mince, egg, breadcrumbs, herbs and a generous pich of salt and pepper together using wet hands until you have a homogenous mixture.
2. Wet your hands again and roll the mixture into 12 meatballs and place in the fridge to chill for 15-20 mins or more.
3. Slice the mozzarella into twelve little pieces.
4. Make a dent in the centre of the meatball with your thumb and place the mozzarella in the hollow.

5. Close the meatball back up again around the cheese (wet hands help to make it sticky)
6. Fry gently in a hot frying pan with a spritz of oil.

Tomato butter sauce:

1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 small onion diced finely
1 clove of garlic minced finely
1 teaspoon each of balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
10 g of butter

1. Gently fry the onion and garlic together until translucent.
2. Add all the other ingredients except the butter and bubble away for a while until beginning to thicken
3. Mix in the butter and adjust seasoning to taste.

I served the vegetables with roasted vegetable couscous and the tomato butter sauce.
Roasted vegetable couscous

When you're cooking for a crowd, I turn to pasta to help me out- and a meatball pasta bake can feed a dozen without stretching the purse strings at all:

Meatball Pasta bake

And if you are cooking for a children's party, meatballs make a good bite-sized treat. Season lightly to suit younger palates- but provide some tasty dipping sauces to jazz them up. My 'Angry Birds' in a noodle nest will go down well. You can make them look cuter of course- but mine turned out more Freddie Krueger than Orville:

Magpie meatballs in a noodle nest
Loads of lovely meatballs from lots of other clever bloggers on that link above.

This tasty meat mixture was actually the first recipe I posted on the blog more than 2 years ago- in the form of a burger sitting in a garlic mushroom cup. You could say it was the mothership of all my ideas since:
Burger in a garlic mushroom cup
As I said at the start, all cuisines seem to feature meatballs- be they falafel, kofta, kebabs or burgers. I've played around with spicy pork parcels:

Asian pork parcels

And with lamb patties and flatbreads:

Lamb patties with home made pitta bread

And some vegetarian options like falafel :

And it's squished down sister- the sweet potato burger:

Sweet potato and carrot falafel-burger

And for a more sophisticated spherical look, what about arancini ( leftover risotto fried into balls):

Arancini with dipping sauce

And finally, if we're talking trendy, what about cake pops? They're round, and- if they're savoury- they're very now. Here's mine:

Brie cake pops with cranberry relish

So, we've gone around the world in 10 different, well, round things. What's your favourite meat or non-meat ball?

Let me know.

We can have a reader's round-up.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Garlic Bread Dauphinoise and 10 other ways with bread

Everybody knows we waste too much food in the UK. Even the most remote cave dweller will have heard that bit of news by now.
But did you know that by far the biggest landfill-filler is bread? It makes up more than 32% of our food waste.

Well, when I say 'our' food waste, I don't mean mine.

I don't mean to sound holier -than-thou, it's just that there are so many tasty things you can do with bread rather than throw it away. So, before you get ready to put that stale half loaf in the bin, here are some ideas for you:

Firstly, Garlic Bread Dauphinoise.

This dish is lovely served as you would dauphinoise potatoes - with lamb, chicken, steak....- but it is lighter ( and soaks up gravy beautifully.)

Butter a spring form cake tin and lay in slices of leftover garlic bread. Squash them to fill all the nooks and crannies. Make a custard with 1 beaten egg, a pinch of salt and pepper and enough milk to pour over the bread without flooding the tin.
Do just that- pour it over, squish it all down a bit more and then dust with a grating of nutmeg and some grated hard cheese if you wish.

Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees) until risen and golden.

Allow to cool enough to be able to release the spring form clips - and voila- your garlic bread dauphinoise ready for slicing and serving.

Garlic bread dauphinoise
Try it!

Now, I've put together another 10 ideas for ways to use up leftover bready things.

1. Pain perdu- delicious made with leftover brioche or madeira cake too.

2. Caramel pain perdu pudding- a sort of bread and butter pudding meets creme brulee.

3. Croutons - for soup or salads

4. Croques-messieurs- and baby-croques

5. Breadcrumbs- for meatballs and burgers and for coating fritters and meat

6. Crumble topping - for savoury crumbles

7. Bread sauce- to accompany game or use as a sauce for pie fillings

8. Panettone or Brioche bread and butter pudding

9. Canapes and nibbles

10. Don't forget the humble toastie-now back in vogue in gastropubs and restaurants.

I'm sure you've got plenty of ideas of your own- how about sharing them here as a recipe swap?

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Mouclade- and other shellfish dishes

I do love mussels. They would be my desert island food of choice (which is probably quite sensible really as they are likely to be swimming around somewhere close by wherever I am marooned.)

I love their smell, their texture, their taste, their versatility - and their price.

They are still an inexpensive seafood - that you can make into a variety of dishes. I bought a bag at my local fishmongers for £3.70- and this is what I did with them.

Firstly, I wanted to make a mouclade or mussel stew with a curry cream sauce. Normally, I prefer moules marinieres as I think the addition of cream often makes the sauce too thick and cools it down too quickly. I'm pleased to report that this didn't happen with this recipe.

For the mouclade you will need:

250g mussels per person
1 onion finely chopped
1clove of garlic (minced)
Parsley stalks (chopped) for sauce and parsley leaves (finely chopped) for garnish
1 glass dry white wine
2 tbsp single cream
2 tsp curry powder or paste

First, wash the mussels in several changes of water and then scrub them with a scouring pad to remove any grit from the shells. Discard any which are open (and don't close when you manhandle them) and any which are damaged.

Pull off their little beards and place the mussels in a colander.

Soften the onion and garlic in some olive oil in a large heavy based saucepan. (I use the pan of my pressure cooker). Pour in the wine and add the parsley stalks and bring to the boil.
A minute or two more on these

Shoot in the mussels and cover with a lid or plate.

Cook on a moderate heat for 4-5 minutes, then give the pan a good shake and open up to see if the mussels are all open. If not, give them a minute or two more.

Meanwhile, mix the cream with the curry powder or paste until all the grains are dissolved.

Ladle the mussels into bowls, pour over the cream and curry mixture and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with bread and lime wedges to squeeze over.


Pour the leftover mussels into a plastic container and allow to cool before covering and refrigerating. They will need to be eaten over the next 2 days.

The next day- either have them as a starter with a drizzle of persillade over each one as here. (Persillade is a garlicky sauce made from garlic cloves, olive oil, parsley and a little salt pulsed together in a blender or smushed in a pestle and mortar- I'm not specifying how much garlic as that is entirely up to you.)

Heroes in a half-shell

Or make them into a seafood pastotto.

This is my own invention of a pasta risotto- using orzo or pasta shaped like rice/oat grains (called avoines in French).

You will need:
70g-80g of pasta per person
your remaining mussels pulled out of their shells (but keep a few in their shells for garnish)
any cooking liquor from the mussels
1 tin or jar of chopped tomato with chili
1 onion (finely chopped)

Begin, as usual by softening the onion in some olive oil. Add the pasta to the frying onion and stir to absorb the oil.
Add a good glug of tomato and the cooking liquor from the mussels.
Stir (and keep stirring) to absorb the liquid. Add more as you need to.

Taste the pasta- it needs to be the soft side of al dente before it is ready.
When it has reached this stage, stir through the mussels to warm them in the pasta.

Serve in bowls with the reserved mussels as garnish.

Seafood Pastotto

Other recipes on the blog featuring shellfish are shown below with a link to the blog pages where the recipes can be found.


So there you have it- seafood recipes that taste like a million dollars- but you won't need to shell out that much to make and enjoy them!