Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Al Fresco Meatballs...

Finally summer seems to have arrived (slightly out of breath from running for the last train I’ll grant you).  It’s been beautiful weather for days... whole days at a time!  Ok so there’s still the odd shower, but thoughtfully it’s getting out of the way while we’re tucked up in bed.  London is a charming place once more...

All of a sudden, the will to preserve has been hurled out the window and replaced with a hankering for all things: fresh, homemade and Italian.  Gelato... pasta... pizza... MEATBALLS! 

I spent last Saturday building a picnic bench sourced from my long-suffering parents.  This replaces the previous, rickety incarnation which was decimated during a raucous arm wrestling match last November.  Now we have somewhere to sit among the Sweet Peas and Nigella to soak up the last of the evening sun.
To celebrate we decided to have our first dinner of the year out in the garden (better late than never).  On hearing meatballs were on the menu, a friend let slip that they always leave him disappointedly wanting more... a challenge if ever I’d heard one.  Thirty-odd meatballs and enough pasta and sauce to sink a battleship later he conceded defeat.  It was a close run though: somehow between the four of us all but two lonely survivors were devoured...

Sweat the shallots in olive oil over a low heat for 10 minutes or until sweet.  Add the wine and reduce. 
 Add the tomatoes, season and cook over a medium-low heat for at least 15 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, make the meatballs.  Mix all of the ingredients together until well combined. 
Roll into conker sized balls.  Heat some olive oil in a frying pan over a hot flame and fry the meatballs in batches. 
Brown the meatballs without moving until they become almost caramelised (this gives lovely taste while keeping the centres juicy).  Turn them gently and continue to brown all over.  Continue until all of the meatballs are cooked. 

Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook for 10 minutes.  Just before serving stir in the torn basil leaves.  Serve with fresh pasta, parmesan and more fresh basil. 

Meatballs: (serves 4)
500g beef mince
400g pork mince (or sausagemeat)
2 eggs
½ nutmeg, freshly grated
¼tsp salt
¼tsp pepper
25g parmesan, freshly grated
1 large handful fresh, mixed herbs, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed

Meatball Sauce: (Serves 4)
Olive oil
5 shallots, finely chopped
1 large glass of wine (red or white)
1200g chopped tomatoes (or passata)
Basil leaves, torn 

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