Home on the Range: Meatballs and pasta

I’m at home in Cork this weekend. It’s been a couple of busy weeks since my last update. St. Patrick’s Day was a blast in the Parc. The rain held off until the very last minute (sunshine was even to be had), until around 16h30, when it came down in buckets and all our visitors beat a hasty retreat. This worked out nicely for us, because we had all the tent-deconstruction and general tidying up done in no time. The cake/sandwich stand was magnificent. Beer, burgers and burritos flowed merrily at the other end of the field. In between, kids and adults played games, ran obstacle races and generally had a good time. Check out the cakes (this is only a small selection, everyone played a stormer):

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The Patrick’s Party in the Parc was followed, deservedly, by a very refined evening in the Old Oak. Very refined…

Last weekend was even more productive. Saturday was all shopping, cooking (spiced tomato and kidney bean soup and Cajun chicken and quinoa) and baking (homemade energy bars). The energy bars were in preparation for Sunday’s 10km race in Dendermonde. I’ve never done a regular road race before, but last year I did two obstacle races (picture below) on freezing cold October and November Sundays. This seemed like a fairly tame but enjoyable experience by comparison. This is me being a gladiator last year:

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Alright, alright, enough about me and more about these meatballs.

Meatballs and pasta

I’m home in Cork for Easter. Hair cut, check.

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To convince my mother that after almost five years of living in Brussels I can feed myself, I’m making dinner for the family tonight. It’s an adapted recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food book and smells delicious. It is so much easier to cook for four/five people than for one person.

Ingredients:
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 handfuls of breadcrumbs (Jamie used cream crackers, this baffles me)
2 heaped tsps of whole grain mustard
800g minced meat (whether beef, pork, horse or a mixture of same)
1 heaped tbsp of dried oregano
2 eggs (preferably organic and, even more preferably, fresh from Finola’s hens next door. The yolks are lovely and yellow)
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
Olive oil (we only have rapeseed oil at home, but it is an adequate substitute)
A bunch of fresh basil (I didn’t have basil, but I love it so it can only make this dish even better)
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic (omitted tonight, as it doesn’t agree with Mom)
Half a fresh red chilli or 2 tsps of dried red chilli
1 leek
2 different coloured peppers
3 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (see garlic)
400g dried pasta (depending on how many you are serving)

Method:

For the meatballs: Finely chop the rosemary leaves and mix them into a bowl with the breadcrumbs, mustard, mined meat and oregano.

Crack in the eggs, mix it all up well with some seasoning. Get your hands right in there. It feels weird.

Divide into 4 large sections. With wet hands, divide the balls up as you wish. Anyone who has spent time in the bakery rolling doughnuts will be a dab hand at this. Drizzle them with rapeseed/oil olive, cover and pop them into the fridge on a plate or in a bowl until you needed.

Cooking the pasta, meatballs and sauce: Peel and finely chop the onion, garlic and chilli. Heat a large pot on a medium heat and add oil (Jamie talks a lot about lugs of oil and I appreciate this open-to-interpretation-ness).

Add onion to the pot and stir around until it is soft and lightly golden. Add the garlic and chilli. When they have begun to colour, throw in the basil, followed by the leek and peppers. Next come the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Bring this to the boil and leave on a low heat while you cook the meatballs.

Heat a frying pan and add oil and the meatballs. All you are doing here is just browning them, you don’t need to cook them through. This is where I stray significantly from the original recipe, in that I transferred the sauce from the pot to a roasting tin and placed the meatballs on top. Like so:

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Then I just covered them with a lid, put them into the oven at a very low heat (approximately 80 to 100 degrees) and left them there for about an hour and a half. This gave me time to write this entry, my brother time to go to training (we were working around him really), and my mother and sister time to look frustratedly at a computer:

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Once Diarmuid got home from training, all that was left to do was to bring a saucepan of water to the boil and pop in the pasta. I’m not a big pasta eater, and spaghetti is my least favourite, but it was all that I had to hand without getting into the car and driving to the village.

Jamie says to use some of the water reserved after draining the pasta to loosen up the sauce, but I used an extra can of tomatoes so this isn’t necessary. The meatballs have soaked up loads of lovely favours from the sauce. I divided it between four of us, and we had plenty left over for Jack to bring back to college in Galway next week. It was absolutely delicious. In short, even though this post has been anything but, success!

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