24 Jul // Weekend gourmet meatballs

Summer is all well and good, but I think winter is an unsung hero. It doesn’t get the glory it deserves, but there’s so much to love about rugging up, getting cosy, and comfort food. Weekends away in winter are especially underrated. A group of friends, a house across the road from a lake, a fireplace, a bit of fresh air and sunshine, and plenty of red wine make for winter weekend perfection.   

Creating a delicious yet reasonably simple feast is ideal for group weekends away. It’s also good to play your strengths in the kitchen. On my weekend away just gone, one of the boys was a poached egg master, and served up the best bacon and eggs I’d had in a long time on Sunday morning. They were served alongside crispy bacon, grainy toast, avocado (the avocalypse is over), and a really good relish. It was the perfect lazy Sunday morning, reading the paper with plenty of coffee and the sun streaming in.   

Poached eggs are my achilles meal (I can perfectly scramble eggs ‘til the cows come home, for the record) but assign me a group dinner and I’ll be fine. Have you done the Fisher & Paykel quiz to work out your cooking style yet? Staying true to my Weekend Gourmet status, my feasting recipe this week comes straight out of Napoli. I’m told that meatballs from Napoli differ in that they are traditionally just made of beef (not beef and pork), and these ones I’ve adapted from Mario Batali, which feature pecorino, pinenuts, and then are served on polenta. It’s a good one for a weekend away, or friends for dinner, or just a family meal at home.

Napoli-style meatballs with a fennel salad

This recipe is the second in a series I'm doing for Fisher & Paykel.

Serves 4-5

For the meatballs

1 cup 3-day old sourdough, cut into cubes (or simply use 1 cup breadcrumbs)

800g ground beef mince

2 free range eggs

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup pecorino cheese, finely grated

Small bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped (plus more for garnish)

2 tbsp pine nuts, gently toasted in a dry frying pan until golden brown

Generous pinch flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

For the sauce

2 x 400g cans tomatoes

2 garlic cloves, minced

Flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper

Soak the bread chunks in water for a few minutes, before removing and squeezing by hand to remove excess water. Add the bread to a large bowl, along with the mince, eggs, garlic, cheese, parsley, pinenuts, and the salt and pepper. Using wet hands, mix well to combine, before rolling into small balls.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, and fry the balls in batches until golden brown and crisp around the edges.

In a roasting tray, add the canned tomatoes, stir through the garlic, and season. Add the meatballs as they’re cooked, then cook in a 180C oven until the sauce thickens a little and is heated through - about 20-25 minutes.

 

Creamy polenta

3 cups water

1 cup coarse polenta

½ cup cream

¼ cup finely grated parmesan

1 tbsp butter

Salt and pepper

Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan, then using a whisk, slowly add the polenta, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and cook for about ten minutes. Remove from heat and stir through the cream, parmesan and butter. Season and stir, and taste and adjust as necessary.

 

Fennel salad

1 fennel bulb

1 small red onion

1 cup baby green salad leaves (I used baby kale and baby spinach)

Juice of one lemon

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Drizzle good quality extra virgin olive oil

Using a mandolin, or the slice disc of a food processor, slice the fennel and the onion. Add to a bowl with the green leaves, then add the lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil. Season and toss gently with your hands, and serve with the meatballs on polenta.