Lockdown is a great time to do batch cooking. Over the long Easter weekend I had planned to make a whole load of different meals for the freezer using the food from a home delivery from about 10 days before (not sure when I’ll get another delivery slot).
In the end I just made a batch of these turkey meatballs because I was feeling tired and lazy. Staying at home all the time can have that effect. I had done some physical activity – a couple of walks and pulling ivy off the outside of my house (because I’m told it’s bad for the brickwork). I couldn’t reach very high but I figured if I cut off the ivy at source, near the ground, it would die. It’s a shame because it looks pretty, but never mind. I also changed some halogen lightbulbs (never an easy job). Just the sort of jobs we’re doing at the moment.
The aim of batch cooking meatballs is that I can then pad out each portion with lots of extras (more veg, a salad, pasta, rice or potatoes) and make the food go as far as possible.
I’ve chosen turkey mince for the meatballs as it’s cheap and low fat (I’m not doing as much exercise as normal – and wasn’t doing that much before) but as it’s also quite a bland meat I made a rich tomato sauce to cook them in. The tomato sauce is also a celebration of the fact that I finally managed to buy some tins of tomatoes – normally an important staple in my kitchen cupboard.
I was observing Pesach (Passover) which means not eating bread so I used matzah crackers in the recipe instead (I would have used matzah meal if I had any). Normally I would use about two heaped tablespoons of breadcrumbs in a meatballs recipe. The breadcrumbs lighten the meatballs and make them go a bit further. Plus nobody wants dense meatballs.
I’d run out of eggs (one of the most common food shortages in the lockdown) so used milk instead – mixing milk with the matzah crackers with a fork seemed to solve the problem and make the meatballs easy to bind. Observant Jews wouldn’t mix milk with meat (but I don’t follow a strict kosher diet).
Putting meatballs in the fridge for a bit can also help the binding process, but I didn’t on this occasion (laziness again).
I put lots of fresh thyme from my garden in the mix, along with the zest of a large unwaxed lemon, some lemon juice and plenty of seasoning – I love the light and lemony taste of these meatballs. I also added plenty of fresh parsley.
Some people would fry the meatballs first but I always like to cook them in the oven (because I’m lazy and cuts down on fat).
These qualities make around 60 meatballs, aiming for about 6/7 meatballs per portion. I always defrost the portions overnight in the fridge, before microwaving or heating up in a saucepan.
- 1 kg turkey mince
- 3 medium onions, finely choppped
- 2 tins tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato pureé
- 1 unwaxed lemon
- 1 egg, beaten (or 2 tablespoons milk)
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- bunch of fresh parsley
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 egg (or about 3 tablespoons of milk)
- 2 tablespoons bread crumbs (or 3 matzah crackers crumbled and mashed with milk in my case)
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Make the meatballs by grating two of the onions into a bowl with the turkey mince, chopped parsley, thyme, zest of the lemon, juice of half the lemon, salt and pepper. Add the breadcrumbs (or matzah mashed with milk in my case) and beaten egg to bind (or use 2 tablespoons of milk).
- Mix well and form into balls (about 3 cm diameters) and place on greaseproof paper on a baking tray. Brush or spray with a but of olive oil and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until brown.
- While the meatballs are cooking make the tomato sauce. Fry the garlic and the remaining onions until soft, add the tomato pureé, tins of tomatoes (and rinse the tins out with water from a recently boiled kettle and add to the pan). Season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil and simmer.
- Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook for another 15-20 minutes before serving, or leave to cool before preparing in portions for the freezer.