Monthly Archives: November 2014

Meatballs in a Tomato & Fresh Basil Sauce

DSC_1350 (788x1024)Ryan Tubridy…you’re being blempt!! Blempt for this blog being posted so late and you will be blempt for my tiredness for the rest of my very busy weekend.  I have to say that I absolutely adored this year’s Toy Show on RTE 1- it was full of magical moments, and it was totally worth it.

This is my second blog for Grogan & Brown Artisan Butchers, where I will be leaving a bain marie full of meatballs in my Tomato & Fresh Basil sauce in their shop for you to taste tomorrow (actually, it’s today now!), and if you like the taste you can find the recipe here, and make them yourself.  If you’re interested in following my blog/recipes, ‘like’ my facebook page, Danette’s Feast, and you will be notified when I do post a blog.

Since my first blog of this sort- Grogan & Brown have won the Kilkenny Retailer of the Year award, which they highly deserve.  I have heard numerous reports from various people about the wonderful service and attention they have received from the lads.  Congratulations guys, and well done!  Only one year in….can’t keep up with these guys!

This time, I’m taking the tasting/blog a bit further, because I’ve also left a few pots of my sauce with them for you to buy, so all you will have to do is make the meatballs.  Easy peasy.  Just a small aside about my cooking sauce(s)-  They’re designed so if you don’t want to use them today, then you can freeze them (in the containers), and simply defrost or microwave (also in the containers), and add the meat(s) (or vegetables, shhh don’t tell Dermot or John that!) of your choice and have an instant meal to hand.  No preservatives, or lingering unwanted tastes….just really good home-made sauce with buckets of flavour and lots of magic too.  All my sauces are made by myself, and all are made in small batches (a detail that really does make a difference in taste). Plus, and it is a plus, when I say Fresh Basil…there is a LOT of fresh basil in my sauce:DSC_1330 (591x1024)

So, I asked John to mince me equal portions of pork and beef for this particular recipe.  I am using a larger quantity than you probably will be so this recipe will be for 1-lb. beef mince and 1-lb. pork mince combined (2-lbs. in total, but if you’re only 1 or 2 people in your household, you can freeze the remaining meatballs and sauce in portions and have real food to hand in a hurry).  These meatballs are ideal as party food (made small like the ones I’m making for the shop today), as spaghetti and meatballs (as photographed above), or you can make them into the American favourite ‘Meatball hero’ by removing some of the centre bread from a baguette, smearing some of my Cashew pesto on the bread and spooning the meatballs in the centre and topping with grated mozarella.  (To die for satisfaction….I highly recommend!).

Back to the recipe. DSC_1333 (450x800) For the 2lbs. of combined mince you will need to heat 2 Tblsp. rapeseed oil in a frying pan over a medium-low heat and add 250 grams of finely chopped onions, 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped, and cook until they are soft.DSC_1334 (676x1024)  When they are, grate or finely chop 18 grams of garlic and add to the vegetables in the pan.  Cook for another 3 minutes and then allow to cool while you prepare the meat base. In a large bowl, combine the 2-lbs of beef and pork mince as well as 2 Tblsp. worchestershire sauce, 1 & 1/2 Tablspoons tomato puree, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon dry oregano or 2 teaspoons fresh oregano-chopped, 10 grams fresh basil, chopped, 50 grams grated parmesan (to bind) and a dessertspoon of nori (seaweed) flakes.  DSC_1336 (576x1024)When the cooked vegetable mixture has cooled add it to the bowl of meat and other ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Form into meatball sizes of your choice and place in a roasting tin.  DSC_1339 (576x1024)Bake at 180 C.  Small meatballs will take approximately 20 minutes to cook, but check them by splitting in half and making sure there are no traces of pink in the centre.  DSC_1341 (576x1024)There will be quite a bit of fat in the pan. Lift the meatballs out of the fat and place in another roasting tray,( if you are serving lots of small ones for a crowd),DSC_1345 (616x1024) Or into a saucepan if they are for a dinner. DSC_1344 (698x1024) In either case, discard the oil and cover the meatballs with the Tomato & Fresh Basil Sauce.   Baste the meatballs over a low heat on the hob, or cover the plentiful small ones with tinfoil and heat in a low oven (160 C)  for at least 20 minutes .

For the spaghetti & meatballs- At the end of that time, boil your spaghetti , drain and serve the meatballs and sauce on top, garnish with more grated parmesan cheese.   If you’re cooking these for a crowd (small meatballs to be served on cocktail sticks at a party, you can serve as is, or garnish with grated mozarella or parmesan. Everyone that eats meat, loves a good meatball! So having these in your freezer for unexpected guests over the holidays might be a good idea too;-) .  Toy show and Thanksgiving Day over…it’s officially Christmas , in my book 😉




A Creative Day ( a new notion?) … a full plate.

This is probably where most of my friends just don’t ‘get’ me.  I had a day off, (Saturday the 1st of November to be exact), and what did I do?  I cooked, of course.  I cooked because I had a store cupboard and pantry full of ingredients, because I was hungry (step away from your work for a few hours- if you’re a chef and always tasting instead of eating,  and suddenly the hunger pangs set-in in a big way), and mostly, because I love to cook.  Full stop.  I don’t always want to cook, but usually I do.  My legs, more to the point, don’t always want to stand.

Anyway, I had pumpkin, I had kale, I had beetroot, rack of lamb, some crab apple and chilli jelly I had recently made, potatoes, cream, and lots of other things, but those were the things I chose to cook with.  We were going to have a nice meal, and I started cooking it at 2pm…so we would eat early, for a change….it was 10 pm when we sat down to eat!! Yeah I know, a chorus of ‘Poor David’, but he’s smarter than that. David knows it’s going to be worth the wait when I go on one of my ‘bender cooking modes’.

The first two ingredients listed were the ones I was really having fun with.  I knew I was going to be making pumpkin, cheesecake streudel muffins soon, so the muffin notion was in my head. (And just for the minutes, that turned out to be a pumpkin cake for my birthday, but not to worry.) I love kale, and I love pumpkin.  I got this notion that it would be nice to put the two together in another way than just mashing and combining, so I took to doing the trendy thing and massaging the kale with Second Nature Organic Rapseed Oil, and making it into a ‘kale cup’ to hold a pumpkin puree.  I used the top of the kale leaves in some of the muffin tins and broken pieces of patchwork kale leaves in others.  The first worked, the 2nd definitely didn’t, and if I were to do this again, and I will because it looks fabulous, I would layer them more abundantly.  When cooked, the kale becomes delightfully light, just like the kale crisps one can purchase now….but I wanted structure too, to hold a filling.  I, so far, have resisted looking for too long at Uncle/Auntie Google to see if someone else has thought up this idea.  I DON’T WANT TO KNOW!! I just want it to be my idea. Here is how I did it:DSC_1203 (900x1024)

To hold it in place, I treated it like pastry, and blind-baked the kale as suchDSC_1207 (820x1024), and just like pastry…I removed the beans and baked it just a little bit more to make sure there would be structure, but I didn’t want my kale cups to go black now, did I?  So I let them bake to about this stage:DSC_1209 (861x1024)As far as texture was concerned these little jewels were perfect.  The edges literally melted in our mouths, the base was slightly chewy and the flavour was bang on.  I made a pumpkin filling, by steaming pieces of japanese pumpkinDSC_1198 (450x800)then mashed them with a generous knob of butter,and added some grated parmesan, finely chopped chilli, ground Nori, grated garlic,  chopped scallions and some raspberry red wine vinegar.  DSC_1214 (669x1024)Season that with sea salt and black pepper and give it a good stir. By this stage I was getting completely carried away with the colour scheme (Autumn rocks, really for colour, doesn’t it?).  I had steamed the previously mentioned fresh beetroot, peeled it and sliced it into matchstick pieces…then combined it with apples sliced similarly, chopped scallions, fresh dill, chopped walnuts and then I stirred some of my buttermilk ranch dressing into that to combine (Sorry, no recipe for that…you’ll just have to buy it!)DSC_1226 (450x800)I heated the pumpkin mixture in the oven to get the cheese to melt nicely , and then placed it in the kale cup.  This is really a meal in itself at this stage, and if one were to stop, this is where they’d be…so Vegetarians, pull up a chair now. DSC_1228 (563x800)Carnivores….DSC_1234 (1024x664)..bear with!!

You may remember I mentioned rack of lamb, which was supplied locally by Dick Dooley. I planted some slivers of garlic and leaves of rosemary in the racks and scored the fat.  Don’t take the fat off.  (Regular plea of mine, but especially with lamb.) I then rubbed ground cumin all over the meat and left it all to sit for 20-30 minutes while I made the wicked potatoes that we used to have on the menu in Danette’s Feast every night. (We weren’t allowed to take them off in the winter months or people went mad…that and the Chocolate Truffle Cake with pecan praline and passion fruit coulis).  I digress.  Basically layered potatoes, onions ,garlic, sea salt, black pepper and fresh cream.  I only made a small dish of these because we didn’t really need potatoes at all, but they do marry well with the lamb! They went into the oven and I started making the sauce for the lamb.  I used to have a few of these fruity/oil and wine-based sauces on the menu too.  People found them refreshing and light.  I find they allow the flavour of the meat to soar without masking, and they don’t leave one feeling bloated either. Also, I used to make large batches of plum cheese in the autumn and found it handy-out to be able to melt them down into a sauce at any given time of the year…the flavour of the plums always improving with time.  On this occasion, I heated a few tablespoons of rapeseed oil, and when hot , added chopped garlic, chopped rosemary ,chopped thyme, and a heaped teaspoon of ground cumin.DSC_1221  I cooked that for a few seconds, then added a few Tablespoons of the crab apple and chilli jelly and about 150 mls of Rioja wine, ok, maybe it was 200. DSC_1222 Place over a low heat, let simmer and reduce . Just before serving, because I know I’ll forget, add some finely shredded fresh mint to the sauce.

Next, I seaoned the lamb with salt and pepper…a good bit of sea salt flakes on the fat of the lamb, and seared it off in the pan before placing in a preheated 200 C oven for 10 minutes or until warmed through.  (We like our meat rare in this house ;-).DSC_1219 (532x800)After searing the meat, I used the oil and bits in the pan to caramelise some shallots, and whole cloves of garlic (in for a penny….). Keep stirring or tossing the above until they are golden in colour.  Sprinkle a little bit of sugar into the pan and scrape all the bits off.  Deglaze with first some red-wine vinegar, then balsamic then a couple tablespoons of water. Cover and let simmer for a few minutes until cooked.  Remove the lid and allow the juices to concentrate into a divine, sticky, sweet and sour goo.

Meat rested, carved, all the above ingredients on a plate….kind of like Christmas in Autumn, no?

DSC_1245 (1024x629) It was really worth the wait!DSC_1243 (1024x576)