Parenthood, and perhaps life in general, seems to be broken down into the act of balancing the routine with the extraordinary. Children (and grown ups too) desire to and thrive from knowing what happens next. From what days we go to school, to what meal comes next (Isla still sweetly asks for clarity at each meal) or how many months until a birthday. Being able to anticipate even small, seemingly insignificant aspects what the future holds helps all of us to embrace what is happening right now.
Here’s the catch: the trick is to also inject just enough risk, chance and the space for exploration into the routine, that allows each individual to feel as though they are creating a unique existence, one worth living. Some of this risk and chance happens without our consent, and we are dragged or carried along by a wave (depending on circumstances) until it crashes. Other times we get to be more selective and choose the wave and risk that looks most appealing, and hope it is both big enough to ride and we are strong enough to remain on our feet. All of this surfing; this anticipation and disappointment and enduring and adapting and adrenaline rush, can be both thrillingly life affirming, and equally earth shatteringly exhausting, and must be fueled and balanced out by a simple, sustainable semblance of order, if we are to keep ourselves from drowning in the overwhelm.
When school is in session and life is more routine(ish), my family and I have developed a good rhythm that helps us to get through our weekday life. It is mundane enough that it can be accomplished without tons of thought when the waves of chance and risk seem to surround us, and equally deeply familiar and personal enough that we can all sink into it for comfort, finding room for freedoms and pleasures within the structure.
Amongst this daily dinner routine now sits these meatballs. I originally made them on a desperate hungry whim, after returning from a trip to find nothing left in the house to eat besides carrots in the fridge, a jar of passata in the cupboard and a pack of turkey mince in the freezer. They were so well received we ended up having them twice in a row one week, and now I make sure to have the ingredients to make them on hand. I’m sure at some point we will get tired of them and they’ll make their way to the bottom of the list for a while, but for now I’m going to play this recipe until it’s all played out.
This dish actually reminds me of a lighter version of one of my favourite comfort meals as a kid: meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas. Whenever my mom made this I would cut up the meatloaf and mix it, the peas and yet more ketchup into my mashed potatoes. It tasted like pure joy. I couldn’t help but smile and of course follow suit when I served this with mashed potatoes and peas and watched the girls instinctively do the exact same thing.
Turkey & Carrot Meatballs
2 medium size carrots, peeled and grated
zest of 1 lemon
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 heaped tsp dried thyme
500g turkey mince (I like a mixture of thigh and breast for more fat)
1 good sprinkle of panko breadcrumbs (helps to bind the meatballs)
salt and pepper to taste
1 jar pasatta
oil of your choice for browning the meatballs
In a large bowl add all of your ingredients save the passatta and mix well, either by hand or with a wooden spoon, season, and roll into meatballs approx 1 inch in diameter.
In a large heavy bottomed saucepan heat a thin layer of oil over a medium high heat. Add your meatballs to the pan, making sure there is enough room so they don’t touch each other, which would prevent them from fulling browning. Scoop them out onto a large plate and set to the side once browned) You may need to brown them off in two or three batches, but better to take the extra time to do so than to have grey unappealing looking meatballs as a result.
Once all of your meatballs have been browned, turn down the heat to a medium low and add in one third of your pasatta, scraping any of the bits off of the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the meatballs back to the pan, followed by the rest of the pasatta and give the whole thing a few gentle stirs to evenly coat the meatballs. Cover three quarters of the way with a lid and let simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the sauce has reduced to your desired thickness taste and season once again before serving.
It doesn’t have to be exclusively served with mashed potatoes- spaghetti, bulgar wheat, couscous, in a wrap or sub, or even just on its own with a dusting of parmesan and more lemon zest all work well too.