I just realised it has been a month since my last post! Where has the time gone? In my defence, when I haven’t been at work for most of the last month I’ve either been at rehearsal, travelling to rehearsal, working on my songs and lines or trying to recover from rehearsals for the local musical I am currently involved with that opens in a week and a half. It is the most challenging role I have played in my 15 years of involvement in community theatre and it has taken up a lot of my spare time. It is just as well Jerome is currently visiting his family in France as I haven’t been home much.
Before Jerome left for his trip, I was looking through one of my books by Jamie Oliver, Save with Jamie and his Meatballs alla Norma recipe caught my eye for three reasons:
- it was quite stormy that night so I wanted to cook something warm and comforting;
- I had never actually cooked with polenta before; and
- I don’t cook a lot of eggplant and was looking for different recipes to use it in.
I have to admit that I didn’t really like this recipe. I found that there were too many fennel seeds in it for me (I don’t really like aniseed flavours), however Jerome really liked it so it wasn’t a failure. It was just that the aniseed flavours dominated a bit too much for me. The recipe also uses three different pans so it makes a bit of washing up. If I made it again I would make and cook the meatballs first, then reuse the same pan to make the sauce to save on a bit of washing up.
Meatballs alla Norma
- 1 large eggplant/aubergine – diced into 1-2cm cubes
- ½ bunch of fresh italian parsley – chopped (about 15g)
- 400g beef mince
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic – finely chopped or minced in a garlic press
- 2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 200g quick cook polenta
- 1-2 tablespoons of unsalted butter (to your taste)
- 30g parmesan cheese – grated
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Place the eggplant into a medium sized bowl and season with a few teaspoons of salt and mix together. Leave in the salt for 15 minutes.
2. In a separate bowl combine the beef with most of the parsley (leave a small amount to garnish at the end). Divide the mix and roll into 20 even sized balls (wet your hands before rolling so they don’t stick). Place the fennel seeds on a plate and roll the meatballs in them so they stick. Place the meatballs on a plate or lined baking tray and place in the fridge for at least 10 minutes to firm up.
3. Heat a saucepan on a medium heat with around a tablespoon of olive oil. A handful at a time (or using a clean tea towel) squeeze out as much of the moisture from the eggplant that you can. Cook the eggplant in the saucepan, stirring regularly, for approximately 10 minutes or until golden (timing will depend on the size of your eggplant).
4. Add the garlic, sweet chilli sauce and balsamic vinegar to the eggplants and stir for about 30 seconds. Then add the tomatoes and a few tablespoons of water. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
5. While the sauce is thickening, heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat with a tablespoon of oil and cook the meatballs until golden and just cooked through (about 10 minutes) then add to the sauce. Allow the sauce to simmer gently while you make the polenta.
6. Make the polenta according to the packet instructions and then add the butter and parmesan. Season the polenta and sauce with salt and pepper to taste and then serve the sauce on top of the polenta with the rest of the parsley and a bit more grated parmesan.
My cookbook library recipe number 8 (two more to go until I am allowed to buy another cookbook!)