On most days, ‘sneaky little meatballs’ is how I lovingly describe my children. Today however I’m discussing the actual thing you eat. We eat this type of meatball so often in such a wide variety, it suddenly dawned on me it’s a damn good party trick when it comes to adding in extra veg, taking the edge off of the ‘what’s for dinner’ conundrum and reducing food waste.
Having gone through it ourselves with our children, I’m all too aware of how easy it is to give fear and hesitation a seat at the table when it comes to trying new foods, and most especially at dinner time. Parents have no energy left for protest. Kids are worn out from school or nursery or just being two years old (it’s exhausting!).
It’s not just children either. Anyone living on their own likely has little desire to start fussing over a new type of dish or a well balanced meal for one by the end of the day. Real life example: when I met my husband he lived on protein shakes and cereal. When it comes to weeknight dinner, we are all in need of maximising any and all ways available to make life a bit easier and happier on ourselves WITHOUT sacraficing things like our health or variety. Variety, in all aspects of life (and especially when it comes to food), is what makes it fun.
May I suggest, a sneaky meatball. Rather than the standard beef, breadcrumbs, egg-and-done, this little trick adds a protein, a vegetable and whatever spices you have kicking around the cupboard or herbs that need using up. It bulks out the meal, adds extra vitamins and fibre, uses up wilting veg or dust-fighting spices AND the combinations are endless. Plus it helps set the tone for trying new foods, by making them look familiar, while still slowly introducing new flavours and textures. Here are a few options to consider when you next make meatballs:
Peppers, garlic & parsley with beef
Carrot, cumin and smoked paprika with lamb
Spinach, shallots, coriander and pomegranate molassas with turkey
Spring greens, ginger and Chinese five spice with pork
Mushrooms and chives with smashed white beans for a vegan adaptation
A few rules of thumb on how to make this work with whatever you have:
- Chop whatever veggie and herbs you’re using up as small as possible to keep the mixture held together and help with detection issues if dealing with little ones.
- No need to cook the veggies before mixing it with the mince, as long as they’re finely chopped they’ll help add moisture and keep the meatballs tender
- Brown them in small batches, ideally starting with just one at first so you can experiment and make sure it holds, is well seasoned etc. You can always add an egg and breadcrumbs if necessary but I find most will hold together if you mix well with your hands to really smooth it all out.
- If you’re using a sauce, after you’ve finished browning your meatballs, deglaze your pan with it, to add flavour. Then add the meatballs back in and coat them with sauce.
- Consider making a double batch of meatballs and freeze half for later.
- Possible dinner options now include adding the meatballs to wraps, to pasta, smother them in a sauce and serve with good dunking bread, pop a tooth pick in them for a retro-style appetiser or impress a fussy toddle (um, or grown up) by serving dinner on a stick.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what flavour combinations you’d consider trying or what’s been successful for you!