Meatballs in a creamy sauce with buckwheat

There is no limit to variations of the meatballs and its accompanying options. This is one of them and it happened to be one of my favourites. It just reminds me of my childhood food. Back then we were not exposed to spices or exotic flavours, food was very straight forward, but never tasteless or plain. I always was amazed how with only few ingredients on hand our Mums and Grandmas managed to come up with accomplished dishes. One of the keys is seasoning. No matter what you are seasoning with, just season and taste, season and taste, until you reach the desired flavour.

I chose to serve it with the buckwheat, just because I love it for its nutty flavour and health properties, but it goes well with pasta, rice or mashed potato.

MEATBALLS IN A CREAMY SAUCE WITH THE BUCKWHEAT

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

500g of your preferred mince (I like to use half & half beef & pork or just turkey)

1 white bread roll or 2 slices of bread

150ml milk

1 big onion, grated

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons plain flour

2 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup of soured cream

1 teaspoon paprika (sweet, hot, smoked)

salt and pepper to taste

fresh dill or parsley to garnish

Method:

  1. Begin by soaking a bread roll in milk, but crumbling the bread in a small bowl and pouring over with milk. Press the bread with the fork, helping to soak up all the milk until it becomes mushy. Leave it to soak for a few minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  3. Then in a big bowl mix all ingredients for the meatballs, including the milky bread, and form the balls, any size you like.
  4. Place the meatballs into oven proof baking dish or a tray and bake for about 20-30 minutes, depends on a size of your meatballs, or until they are cooked through.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Take any heavy-bottom pan, add the butter and when it’s melted, add the flour. Keep stirring until the butter absorbs the flour, but do not allow it to burn. Then add the chicken stock, continue constantly stirring, to avoid lumps. When it thickens, add the soured cream and paprika, salt and pepper, mix well and cook for a few more minutes. Season, taste, adjust seasoning if required.
  6. When the meatballs are ready, simply add them to the pan with the sauce or serve it separately, pouring sauce over. Garnish with the fresh dill or parsley.

It also goes well with some pickles on a side, gherkins in particular.

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Super tender meatballs in tomato sauce with cannellini beans

Here is a quick improvisation on one of the classic Italian Polpette, which I made few times before, which I highly recommend. Fennel is this magic ingredient, which transforms these meatballs to another level of deliciousness.

This time I ran out of fennel seeds, instead I just added some chilli powder, paprika & Worcestershire sauce for a little bit of kick, plus cannellini beans for some substance.

PORK POLPETTE IN TOMATO SAUCE WITH CANNELLINI BEANS

Ingredients

For tomato sauce:

100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
pinch of chilli flakes to your taste
1/2 paprika powder
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 small handful of oregano, finely chopped
pinch of caster sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans (or any other canned beans of your choice)
chopped dill/parsley to garnish (optional)
For the Polpette:

1.5 kg minced pork

3 medium free-range eggs

150g breadcrumbs

large pinch of dried chilli flakes

salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. To make a sauce, heat half the oil in a large saucepan and sweat the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and chilli on a medium heat for about 15 minutes. When transparent, add the tinned tomatoes, cannelloni beans and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to bubble on the lowest heat for about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the sugar, Worcestershire sauce, if using, and the oregano. Taste and see if it needs anything else. Set aside for now.
  2. To make meatballs, preheat the oven to 220C. Put the pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, chilli flakes, salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl and massage thoroughly. Roll into approx 45g balls, place them on a greased baking tray and roast in the oven for 10 minutes, turning once until they are starting to brown.
  3. Then poach the meatballs in the tomato & beans sauce for 10 minutes.
  4. Serve on its own with some fresh chopped herbs and nice crusty bread or focaccia.

Parsley Sauce

Knock Knock
Who’s there!
Parsley!
Parsley who?
Parsley the sauce please!

Excuse this bad joke, but I just couldn’t resist..
I have to admit that not only have I never made parsley sauce, I never even tried it before.  One of my colleagues always says how much she loves it. I had to try it to see what it’s all about.

I see the appeal now,  it’s a really delicious, quick and no fuss sauce to make and can be used with ham, fishcakes, baked fish, or even vegetables. We had it simply with baked salmon and green beans.

CLASSIC PARSLEY SAUCE

(adapted from BBC Food)

Tip:  Make it just before you need to use it.

Ingredients:

25g butter

25g plain flour

400ml milk

a good handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan.

  2. Stir in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, watch the heat to ensure sure the paste does not burn.

  3. Gradually stir in the milk to get a smooth sauce. I prefer to use a whisk for that, stirring all the time, bring to the boil.

  4. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 5-7 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, stir in chopped parsley, serve it straight away.

 

Leftovers Cheesy Gratin

It’s not the most sophisticated dish, to be honest, but it works on so many levels. It helps to tidy up the loose ends from your fridge and takes minutes to assemble the dish, and goes so well on a midweek cold evening.

Leftovers Gratin

Leftovers cheesy gratin

LEFTOVERS CHEESY GRATIN

Ingredients:

50g butter

1 onion, finely chopped

50g flour

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

500ml milk

200g mature cheddar, grated

3 cooked potatoes, sliced

200g frozen peas

200g any cooked meat/ham (optional)

salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion, cook until it’s soft and translucent. Then stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the milk until smooth with no lumps, (I prefer to use a whisk for that) keep stirring until the mixture begins to bubble and thickens to a creamy sauce. At this stage add the mustard and cheese, leaving a handful of grated cheese aside for the topping. Check for seasoning and remove from the heat.
  3. Place potatoes, peas and cooked meat or any other cooked vegetables you’d like to use up, in a deep oven proof dish. Pour over the cheese sauce, then sprinkle with remaining cheddar.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the topping is golden and crisp.

 

Moroccan Lentil and Lamb Stew

It’s a really hearty, earthy, yet fruity light dish. I can’t say it’s the most presentable creation as the red cabbage lends a distinctive monotone colouring to the whole thing. However, if not made for dinner party, it will impress just as well as a mid week supper. This dish is a winner and a budget friendly one too. I served it with a yoghurt and tahini lemon drizzle to top, but it’s just as good on it’s own.

Moroccan Lamb and Lentil Stew

MOROCCAN LENTIL AND LAMB STEW

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 onions, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves,  finely chopped

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons ground coriander

pinch ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 teaspoon za’tar (optional)

350 g dried green lentil, rinsed

1.5 litre chicken stock

1/2 small red cabbage, finely shredded

400 g lamb leg steaks, diced

50 g dried apricots, chopped

50 g dried currants, chopped (optional)

1 lemon, for squeezing

salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. In a large casserole heat 1 tablespoon of oil, add the diced lamb and brown over a high heat until it just cooked. Set aside.
  2. Add the remaining oil to the casserole and gently cook the onion until softened. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, then add the spices and cook for 1 more minute.
  3. Add the lentil and stock and bring to a simmer. Add the cabbage and cook, covered, for 30-35 minutes, until the lentil are tender.
  4. Stir in the apricots, currants and lamb for the final 10 minutes of cooking time.
  5. Check seasoning, squeeze some lemon juice, serve on its own or drizzle with Yoghurt & Tahini dressing.

Yoghurt & Tahini Dressing:

1/4 cup tahini paste, at room temperature

Juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups plain yogurt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Mix by hand or blend in a food processor everything up and drizzle on top.
  • The tahini sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Serve at room temperature.

Moroccan Lentil and Lamb Stew

Potato Pancakes

To celebrate The Pancake Day (yesterday) I chose a less conventional recipe for pancakes. Someone, probably, would debate even if you can call them ‘pancakes’, but that’s how we call them at home and I will continue to do so.

When we grew up, we didn’t really have any ‘take away’ places and the only ‘fast food’ we knew, it was the food made by our Mums and Babushkas. It was always the food with few ingredients, probably not always healthy (but what sort of  ‘fast food’ is?), but always comforting and delicious! These pancakes are in that ‘fast food’ range. And you don’t need to wait for Pancake Day to have it really, it’s perfect any time, when you crave for the comfort food.

Potato pancakes / Druniki

POTATO PANCAKES

Ingredients:

4 potatoes, peeled

4 tablespoons plain floor

2 eggs, lightly beaten

salt to taste

vegetable oil for frying

soured cream for serving

Method:

  1. You can grate finely, coarselyor mince the potatoes by hand, or you can simply put it in a food processor and blitz it until it becomes fine mass without any big pieces (imagine you blend the soup, so the consistency of the potatoes should be like that).
  2. Add the eggs, flour, salt and mix thoroughly to avoid lumps.
  3. In a pan pour oil, wait until its hot (but not burning!), put potato mixture with a spoon. Fry each side until brown, flip. The pancakes brown rather quickly, so do not walk away very far from the pan, keep an eye on them.
  4. When the pancakes are cooked put then on kitchen towel to drain the excess of the oil. Serve meanwhile they are hot, on its own or preferably with soured cream.

Potato Pancakes

Lemon Chicken Stir-Fry

Here is the one of many versions of the traditional dish from your local Chinese takeaway. Chicken breasts are coated in a light batter, then fried along with any vegetables of your choice, before being served with a tangy lemon sauce. Serve with rice or noodles.

Lemon Chicken Stir-Fry

LEMON CHICKEN STIR-FRY

Ingredients:

1 lemon

1/2 cup water

3 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon groundnut oil

2 skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 2 cm pieces

 1 cup fresh or frozen sweetcorn

1 yellow pepper, diced or sliced

3-4 spring onions, chopped

sesame oil, for drizzling over (optional)

Method:

  1. In a bowl zest 1 teaspoon lemon zest, juice the lemon and whisk 3-4 tablespoons of the juice with water, soy sauce and cornstarch in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add sliced pepper, cook for another 3 minutes, add sweetcorn, continue cooking for about 5 more minutes.
  3.  Whisk the sauce mixture and add to the pan; cook, stirring, until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add spring onion at the end of cooking and serve with rice or noodles.

Lemon Chicken Stir-fry

Happy Chinese New Year 2016 to everyone who celebrates! Best wishes to all!