Meatballs. So many ways of making them, all so good. The Spanish use a mixture of beef and pork mince traditionally, although the sauce varies from a rich tomato to a winey gravy. This is taken partly from a great little cook book I was given as a leaving present from work, a little research of other Spanish recipes, and a few of my twists along the way. The book, should you want a good starting point on Spanish cooking, is Classic Spanish Cooking by Elizabeth Luard.
This is not your typical Albondigas, as we decided to stuff each ball with a little nugget of mozzerella tossed in basil paste, and boy were we glad we did! I also played with the sauce, but I don’t stray from the original concepts. I’m using 100% pork mince, as it’s what I had, and I don’t think using 100% pork or beef hurts at all. If you have both, fantastic. A frugal Spanish houswife might use more bread to bulk this and stretch it further if the pennies were tight, if you needed this to go a little further than more bread certainly won’t hurt it.
Ingredients for the meatballs
450g Pork mince, or beef mince, or 50:50 mix of the two preferably
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
4 slices of bread, made into breadcrumbs
Small handful of parsley, finely chopped
Dash of sweet paprika
Good pinch of salt and dash of pepper
If stuffing the meatballs, a little mozzerella (roughly 50g) cut into cubes of about 5-10mm, tossed in a little basil paste. We used some ready made Gourmet Garden Basil, tubes of paste consisting of basil, oil, salt and sugar(just a tiny pinch), if making up yourself bash it up in a pestle and mortar.
For the sauce
1 small onion, finely chopped into dice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red pepper, diced (I’d run out so used a sweet green one)
2 medium carrots, diced
Tin of plum tomatoes, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of sugar
Good dash of white wine
Salt and pepper
Dash of sweet paprika
Approximately 1 cup / 240-250ml of chicken stock
Whiz your bread up into breadcrumbs(or if you have a fresh loaf going a bit hard and no food processor grate it), and place your mince, egg, parsley, paprika, chopped garlic, salt, pepper, flour and breadcrumbs into a big bowl
and bring it all together, mixing it well. I found some recipes saying to soak the bread in milk, squeezing out all the milk and adding the bread to the mix, but having tried this I can say it goes really wet and sticky, even if you then add some flour as suggested. Dry, fresh breadcrumbs are the way to go. Your mix should be moist but not too sticky.
In a saucepan place a little oil and put onto a medium heat, adding the onion and garlic. Cook until softened and turning a light golden colour, stirring regularly. Add the pepper and carrot, and cook for a few more minutes,adding a little more oil should it get too dry, before adding the paprika, stirring through, then a good dash of wine, and the tomatoes.
Put the cinnamon and bay leaf into the pan and season, and about half a cup of stock, and about half a teaspoon of sugar. You want to keep this on a low heat, stirring occasionally, for at least half an hour, reducing the sauce to a lovely thick consistency. Add more stock if it gets too thick and dry. Taste wise at this point, you should have a rich tomato sauce with undertones of cinnamon.
Now for the meatballs. Get about a dessert spoon of mix into your palm,place a mozzerella nugget if stuffing, and wrap the meat around it into a ball. If your mix is too sticky for this to happen easily you can flour your hands, but the consistency should be dry enough not to leave your hands in a mess. Place on a board and repeat until you have used up all the mix. If not stuffing, just roll into balls, aim for large marble/slightly smaller than a golf ball size.
Heat your oven to 190degC / gas mark 5 / 375degF
Heat some olive oil in a non-stick frying pan,and place your first batch of meatballs, make sure the fat is hot but not too hot or it will brown them too quickly and spit crazily at you as you put the meatballs in. Also, do not overfill the pan or you will sweat rather than fry them.
Lightly brown on all sides and put into an oven dish large enough to contain the meatballs and the sauce. Repeat the process until all your meatballs are nicely browned. Pour over your sauce, cover and put into the oven for about 15-20 minutes.
This could be served with saute potatoes, pasta, rice or some fresh crusty bread even. We had ours with Patatas Bravas (Spanish fried potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce) and a lovely salad. Delicious!