I know I said we would explore the East for a while and we will go back there, but with school holidays and the constant need for interesting and exciting meals I have been going back to some of the basics, just changing them up a bit. But, as every mom knows thinking of easy delicious meals all the time - even for a chef - is exhausting so on Friday night the kids had chicken nuggets and chips - I did add vegetables to the mix so as not to feel too guilty - and then I found myself having a bag of crisps and a bowl of sour cream for dinner because I wasn't bothered to cook for myself. And then how bad did I feel? So I have a simple meatball and tomato sauce recipe (I used the leftover tomato sauce for pizzas), fresh fish with a lemon, caper and cream sauce, chicken schnitzels - home made of course, grilled chicken with grilled asparagus and finally home made pizza for Sunday night dinner! Lets start with the meatballs - always a firm favourite and a good way to hide some veggies in the meatballs and particularly in the sauce. It's also a great way to get little hands involved in the process of meal making and I am pretty sure they become a bit more adventurous with trying things if they help to make them, so get a stool ready, take deep breaths because you do need patience and start with the meatballs:
Basil & Spring Onion Meatballs with Home Made Tomato Sauce
Start with a pack of good quality lean beef mince (preferably never frozen but if it has been frozen, defrost thoroughly),
I use old bread to make the breadcrumbs and used about half a cupful. Just whiz up the bread with one of those hand held blenders
2 Spring onions finely chopped
3 - 4 Fresh Basil leaves - finely chopped
Mix everything together in a bowl and season with a little salt and pepper- little hands enjoy this job!
Have a bowl of flour nearby and then take spoonfuls of the meat mixture and drop them in the flour just to coat and make rolling the balls easier - again a good job for little hands.
Roll the meatballs until all the mixture is used up - you should end up with about 15 - 20 medium meatballs.
Place these in the fridge to rest while you make the sauce.
Home Made Tomato Sauce
2 Celery sticks
2 Medium carrots
1/2 a small onion
30ml Extra Virgin Olive oil
10ml Tomato paste
100ml White Wine (Don't worry the alcohol cooks away so it is not bad for the kids or just leave it out if you prefer)
1 Tin Chopped Italian Tomatoes
Dice the vegetables as finely as possibly - this is a good way to practice those knife skills
Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan and add the vegetables and allow them to sweat on a low heat with the lid on - this means they must go soft and translucent without browning, stir every now and then. This process cannot go quickly and requires at least 10 minutes
Remove the lid and turn up the heat and add the tomato paste and stir vigorously for about 30 seconds and then add 100ml white wine and allow it to reduce almost completely - you will have a very thick dark red colour in the pot.
Add the tomatoes and then simmer gently 10 - 15 minutes.
Season with a good pinch of salt ( I don't use black pepper as the kids find it burny but add a dash if you like after blending - blending intensifies pepper so always add pepper after blending)
Then the magic, whiz it well with a stick blender - Veggies hidden!!
Once the sauce starts simmering, bring a large pot of water to the boil to cook your pasta and heat a large pan for frying the meatballs
Fry the meatballs in a little olive oil until well browned all over - I like to finish them in the oven for 5 minutes so they don't burn but cook all the way through.
Serve with Spaghetti..... Everyone will come back for seconds!