Meatballs with Saffron and Corn Polenta

I find making meatballs therapeutic. I love mixing the raw ingredients together and squashing it through my fingers like mud and I feel oddly proud when I make it into beautiful round balls (mine are far from perfectly round but nevertheless, I like to think so and the exact shape isn’t really important to me).

This recipe makes a large batch of meatballs and is one of my fall-backs when my children’s friends unexpectedly stay for dinner. When I make these for the six of us, I make eighteen large meatballs and with the rest of the ingredients I make tiny cocktail ones, which I then serve up with pre-dinner drinks on the verandah the next evening. If I have enough of the small meatballs I freeze them and add them to a pasta sauce at a later stage.

For the meatballs:

1kg beef mince

1 large onion

1 sweet pepper

3 cloves of garlic

20ml salt

10ml smoked paprika

5ml mixed spice

5ml nutmeg

125ml breadcrumbs

a good handful of fresh herbs, chopped

2 large eggs

Chop the onion and sweet pepper into very small pieces and add it to a mixing bowl with the mince.

Crush the garlic cloves and add to the mixture as well as the paprika, mixed spice, nutmeg breadcrumbs and chopped herbs.

Break the eggs into a small bowl and give them a quick whisk before adding to the rest of the ingredients.

Mix everything together (this is the mixing I do with my hands – try it, its wonderful!).

Preheat your oven to 180℃.

Pour a thin layer of oil into a roasting tray.

Scoop up some mixture with a dessert spoon and roll the meatballs between the palms of your hands. Place on the roasting tray and keep going until you have utilised all of the mixture.

Bake the large meatballs for 30 – 35 minutes and the small ones, if you are making them, for 15 – 20 minutes.

For the saffron and corn polenta:

750ml chicken stock

250ml polenta

10ml salt

a pinch of saffron threads

62ml butter

1 tin of corn kernels

Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil.

In the meantime, make a slurry with the polenta and some cold water.

Add the saffron threads to the boiling stock and slowly pour in the slurry while whisking continuously. Once the mixture is smooth and lump-free, turn down the heat to a low simmer and put a lid on the saucepan.

Leave to simmer for 25 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Take the polenta from the heat, add the butter and the corn kernels and give it a good mix.

Serve straight away.

I like to serve this dish with oven roasted tomatoes. Simply drizzle Roma tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of salt and roast at 180℃ until wrinkled and bursting with juice and flavour.

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