Is it possible for a food blogger to get into a food rut? It seems highly unlikely, what with all the recipe experimentation going on due to the blog, but on a day-to-day basis we tend to eat the same few recipes over and over. This is partly due to convenience and party due to the fussiness of the children – my son still looks at anything new and unfamiliar with intense suspicion. Well I have vowed to try new recipes, to invigorate our midweek meals and simultaneously convince Sam that herbs are not, in fact, the stuff of evil.
Now that my hundreds of cookbooks have found their proper home near the kitchen, I have been busy making notes and sticking post its on about a billion recipes I would like to try. I have been doing really well in terms of making new meals and middling to poor when it comes to getting the kids to try them. Actually that's not quite true – Anya came downstairs after going to bed recently just to tell me that whatever I was making (honey ginger chicken stir fry) smelled amazing and would I save her a portion. Sam remains very reluctant to try anything new although I am convinced some of it just a show for my benefit and he does just fine eating whatever is put in front of him at nursery.
One thing that most kids are (almost) guaranteed to like is meatballs. Not sure whether their huge appeal is due to the fact that meatballs are by their nature bite-sized, or just that they are simply delicious – whether served with tomato sauce, Swedish-style or as a meze. This recipe, adapted from Tom Kerridge's Best Ever Dishes, pairs pork meatballs with a rich brown ale gravy that is completely addictive. I can honestly say this is the perfect comfort meal and a massive hit with both children (herbs and all!) and grown ups. Use a brown ale for the gravy (worry not, the alcohol cooks off) but make sure you have enough Oxford Gold to serve alongside the meal for those old enough to imbibe.
Herby pork meatballs in ale gravy
500g | 17.6oz minced pork
100g | 3.4oz breadcrumbs (1 thick slice of toast)
4 slices pancetta
2 banana shallots, peeled
6 fresh sage leaves
2 small sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tbsp English mustard
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
vegetable oil to fry
1 tbsp rosemary & 1 tbsp fresh sage, very finely chopped, to serve
For the gravy
1 bottle brown ale (500ml | 17fl oz)
500ml | 17fl oz chicken stock
2 garlic cloves, skin on
2 shallots, halved, skin on
2 rosemary sprigs
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch) diluted in a little cold water
- Put the bread, pancetta, shallots and herbs in a food processor or mini chopper and blitz until finely ground.
- Place in a bowl with the mince, egg, mustard and salt and mix together thoroughly with your hands. Cover and put in the fridge for an hour or overnight.
- With wet hands, roll about a tablespoon of mince for each meatball until you have used up all the mix.
- Heat a little vegetable oil in a large frying pan and fry the meatballs, in batches, until nicely browned all over. Place in an ovenproof dish and set aside.
- Put the ale, shallots, garlic and rosemary in a medium pot and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.
- Add the chicken stock, cornflour and sugar and bring to the boil again. Reduce the heat once more and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 190C (380F). Strain the gravy over the meatballs and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the gravy is bubbling and thickened.
- Sprinkle with the chopped herbs and serve with potato or celeriac mash and wilted spinach.
Notes: the meatballs taste even better as leftovers... and they also freeze really well.