I think we all start to have them – you know when you’re in a couple – there are certain meals you really enjoy eating together and sometimes it even becomes something you have 2-3 times a month. Well this is one of those dishes I roll out pretty frequently because I know it’s a big hit. Now I’m not going to lie I have been known to cheat and buy a packet of Duchy Organic meatballs (which are great as they are gluten-free & they have top-notch farming standards so you know you’re getting the good stuff!) to serve with my thick tomato sauce. But really to get the full showstopper of a meal and the “I’ll love you forever” moment from your t’other half – you gotta go from scratch – and don’t worry it’s not much extra effort. These Smokin’ balls are full of flavour and work well as a winter warmer, but I say why confine these tasty balls of deliciousness to winter! 😉
You might be wondering why my meatballs are smokin’ well not because I set them on fire but I really love Hot Smoked Paprika, it just adds this really awesome earthy, spicy, smokiness to the dish.
Now traditionally meatballs are served with spaghetti or perhaps rice or bread – and you know that’s fine, there are some good GF pastas out there – (the Corn versions are high GI so not the best if you want sustained energy). I want to show you how easy it is to plan meals that don’t revolve around breads, pastas and cereals. I like to serve my meatballs on a bed of steamed Courgette ribbons – they act as a great accompaniment and the meal is fully rounded with proteins, fats and the low GI carbs come from the vegetables.
400g (Organic) minced beef 20 % fat (Organic will taste better but is also better for your health – the meat is not pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones – but completely up to you)
¼ of Onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (* minced) * see instructions on this.
small bunch Thyme (* finely Chopped)
small bunch Parsley (* finely chopped)
small bunch Basil (* finely chopped)
1tsp Hot Smoked Paprika
A dash of Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Thick Tomato Sauce:
500g Carton of Passata (sieved tomatoes)
200g or half tube of tomato puree
Half a carrot
¾ of Onion
A dash of light Olive oil
4tsp Bouillon stock powder (check it is Gluten free, I tend to go for the yeast free & reduced salt – most natural) made up to 1/2 litre with boiling water
Pinch dried Oregano
1 Bay Leaf
2 cloves garlic
3 Courgettes – sliced into ribbons
A sprinkle of Sea Salt
1) To start finely chop the herbs, garlic, onion, (*) but if I’m honest I tend to bung them all in the food processor with salt, pepper, the hot smoked paprika, a dash of olive oil – and give them a quick blitz – saves time…
2) Next I put the minced beef in a bowl and add the herb/spice mix – you have to get your hands in here to really integrate it all. Then take little bite-sized amounts and start balling them up and put them on a plate, depending on the size you should get about 18-20 balls.
3) Then you want to make the Courgette ribbons with a peeler, if you have a mandolin you can always go for a finer noodle style if you prefer. I then put them in a colander and sprinkle the courgette ribbons with salt – this draws out the excess water and any bitterness.
4) For the tomato sauce, I roughly chop the rest of the onion (3/4’s should be left) and half a carrot – (the other half I usually eat – sometimes dunk in Sunbutter or home-made mayo… as the warm up act!)
5) Now back to the balls: I heat up a large frying pan medium heat and then add all the meatballs – no oil here as they have their own fat. You want them to get an even colour on all sides. Once nicely browned, turn the heat off and leave them to rest.
In the pic above they need a just a few more minutes to get a more even colour.
6) Now you can start the sauce: roughly chop the carrot and onion and then in a little olive oil, gently fry for a couple of minutes until the onion starts to go a bit transparent.
7) Add the tomato puree and stir for a couple of minutes – the paste will go a touch darker.
8) Then add the Passata, the bouillon stock (half a litre), one bay leaf, black pepper, (you won’t need extra salt here as the bouillon is salty) and a pinch of dried Oregano. This is the same tomato sauce recipe I use for my Bolognese – it’s great in my opinion!
9) Put the lid on and bring it up to the boil and then turn the heat down and take the lid off, bringing it back to a simmer. Then add the crushed garlic and the browned meatballs.
That little yellow roller (on the right) is really cool it rubs the garlic skin right off, no fuss and you don’t get garlic paws! 😉
10) Now you can let the tomato sauce pot simmer away for 45-60 minutes – plenty of time to catch up on any house chores, admin or plain old relaxing!
11) At the 45 minute mark check it – you want the liquid to have reduced in the pan to half and the sauce to be a lovely rich, thick consistency. Give it a few minutes more if need be. When it is ready turn the heat off and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes.
12) In the meantime you can rinse the Courgettes with water to get the excess salt off and then gently squeeze the excess liquid out with some kitchen paper. I like to steam them for about 4-5 minutes so they retain their shape and of course their vitamins!
Finally, I add some fresh chopped parsley and basil to the meatball mix (pull the bay leaf out) and give it a stir. Give it a taste it might need a touch of black pepper. In a pasta bowl or plate I lay a bed of Courgette ribbons out and spoon the meatballs over the top. For a lighter meal you might find 4-5 meatballs per person is adequate but for a more filling meal 9-10 meatballs per person works well.
This dish has all the fantastic health benefits from the herbs and garlic. The red meat makes it iron rich and packed full of protein. Perfect for us ladies wanting to balance our hormones!
The tomato sauce is rich in Lycopene, people who have diets rich in tomatoes, apparently have a lower risk of certain types of cancer. Meanwhile Paprika is loaded with Capsaicin which is known as a powerful anti-inflammatory, which can ease chronic conditions like arthritis and joint pain. Capsaicin also helps improve blood circulation, thereby improving conditions like cold feet and hands. Paprika also has plant enzymes that can help neutralize stomach acids, thus aiding digestion.
Garlic: Lowers cholesterol, keeps you heart healthy 🙂 and is also a natural antibiotic!
Thyme: Its leaves are one of the richest sources of potassium, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and selenium.
Basil: Natural anti-inflamatory, magnesium and also a good source of iron, calcium, potassium and vit C.
Parsley: B 12, K, Vit C and A – keeps your immune system strong, heals the nervous system.
Lastly Courgettes: A little of Vit C, A, B Vits – thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and minerals like iron, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc – yes please!