Meat­balls

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - NEWS - by Bren­dan Ward Bren­dan Ward is head chef at No5 Vinoteca pi­ano and ta­pas bar, Mer­rion Row, D2, tel: (01) 662-4757, or see no5vinoteca.ie In con­ver­sa­tion with Sarah Caden

Your cut-out-and-keep guide to the fun­da­men­tals of cook­ing

Be­cause ta­pas are small, at­ten­tion to de­tail mat­ters — and they need to have a lot of flavour. We use cheese in our meat­balls be­cause it adds an ex­tra layer of taste and rich­ness. All-meat meat­balls can be a bit dry. We don’t add egg or bread­crumbs. Meat­balls don’t need that glue­ing to­gether or that pad­ding out. You don’t want to over­mix your in­gre­di­ents so that you have hard, tightly packed meat­balls. There’s no need to use a mixer, just get the in­gre­di­ents gen­tly blended with your hands, to bring all the flavours through each other.

Peo­ple worry about meat­balls be­ing cooked through, so make them small, then they don’t need a lot of cook­ing. Seal­ing them in the pan be­fore fin­ish­ing in the oven will also in­ten­sify the flavour. But don’t over­cook them. We serve our meat­balls with a sim­ple tomato sauce. We make it with tinned San Marzano toma­toes, red wine, gar­lic, oregano and rose­mary. Just cook it gen­tly down to a thick, rich sauce.

If you’re mak­ing ta­pas at home, the best start is al­ways good bread. Serve it with olives, olive oil, even a se­lec­tion of Span­ish ham and cheese. Meat­balls are the clas­sic, but I’d also say that gam­bas pil-pil — prawns cooked in spicy oil — are key. Ir­ish peo­ple love patatas bravas and tor­tilla, but in No5 Vinoteca, our Parme­san fries are a huge hit, even if they’re not clas­si­cally Span­ish. We serve our meat­balls in lovely lit­tle clay pots with the tomato sauce poured over them, a splash of ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil, a bit of pars­ley, grated cheese and olives. A bit of bread on the side is cru­cial to mop up all the sauce. Serves 6.

You will need:

1kg (2lbs) prime Ir­ish beef mince 2 ta­ble­spoons sweet pa­prika 1 tea­spoon dried chilli flakes 2 cloves minced gar­lic 250g (9oz) Manchego or Parme­san cheese, grated, plus ex­tra for serv­ing Salt and freshly ground black pep­per to sea­son 1 ta­ble­spoon veg­etable oil for fry­ing Tomato sauce, splash of ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil, chopped fresh pars­ley and green olives, to serve

Method:

In a large mix­ing bowl, mix the mince, the sweet pa­prika, the dried chilli flakes, the minced gar­lic, the grated Manchego or Parme­san cheese, which­ever you’re us­ing, and the salt and freshly ground black pep­per to­gether. Form into bite-sized balls. This recipe should make about 36 meat­balls in to­tal, mak­ing it six per per­son. Heat a ta­ble­spoon of veg­etable oil in a pan over a medium heat. Do not over­crowd the pan with meat­balls; brown them gen­tly in batches. Pre­heat the oven to 200°C, 390°F, Gas 6. Put the browned meat­balls on a oven­proof dish and cook them through in the oven for a fur­ther 10-12 min­utes. Serve them coated with tomato sauce, a splash of ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil, and chopped fresh pars­ley, grated Manchego or Parme­san cheese, which­ever you are us­ing, and green olives.

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