Spaghetti-and-meatballs

Meatballs

So a while back, in my first recipe post, I mentioned that the weather has been cold, but not so cold that you just want stews and the like. And… three and a half weeks later, not a whole lot has changed. We’ve had some really cold days, like take-your-breath-away cold, but they have mostly been isolated days, with much milder temperatures in between. So here is another recipe which hopefully will help tide you through the in-betweeny stage.

Meatballs are a wonderful thing – they are something I order all the time when I’m out. However, so often I find them disappointing – largely because I find that they are too often hard and dry. To me, meatballs are comfort food – and they should tread a fine line between holding their form, but being soft and yielding once you start eating them. I had made them several times, but never quite got it right.

Meatball mix

I was thrilled, then, to discover Angela Hartnett’s recipe, and her trick of using milk-soaked bread to bind the mixture, rather than the more usual egg. Her recipe makes meatballs which are just the most delicious I’ve ever tasted. I have adapted her recipe slightly – I substitute pork for veal, as it is more readily available. I’ve added some chili to both the meatball mix and the accompanying sauce, and I simmer the meatballs in the sauce on the stove top rather than putting them in the oven. The result is a more homogeneous meaty sauce than the original, and you may find that the meatballs start to disintegrate a little if you cook it too long – but there are worse things in life…!

Meatballs cooking

One final thing to add is to encourage you to include the anchovies even if you do not like them (either specifically or fish in general). It is such a small amount, and they really just act to season the meat, rather than adding an overall fishy taste. Also – an apology, because I totally forgot to take a picture of the finished product! We were just so hungry by the time everything was ready, we had devoured it before I remembered about taking a photo. To make up for this, here’s a shot of the delicious meatball sandwich I made with the leftovers… That’s right, six weeks in the States and I think it’s totally acceptable to have a load of tomatoey meatball goodness in a sandwich.

Meatball sandwich

Spaghetti and meatballs

Adapted from Angela Hartnett’s recipe for The Guardian

Serves 4

  • 200g/7oz white bread – crusts removed
  • Milk – 100-200ml (enough to soak the bread)
  • 500g/17oz minced beef
  • 250g/9oz minced pork
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 red or green chili, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan, plus more to serve
  • 4 anchovies, finely chopped
  • 2 400g/14oz tins chopped tomato
  • 100ml red or white wine (optional)
  • Approx 1tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 400g Spaghetti

Start by making the tomato sauce. Heat a splash of the olive oil in a saucepan, and add half of the onion, garlic and chili. Allow to cook over a gentle heat until cooked but not brown. Add the tinned tomatoes and wine if using, season with salt and pepper, and allow the sauce to cook gently, uncovered, while you prepare the meatballs.

Place the bread in a bowl and cover with milk. In a large bowl, combine the meats, onion, garlic, chili, anchovies and parmesan, and season well with salt and pepper. Squeeze the excess liquid from the bread, and add this to the mix in the bowl. Mix well until all ingredients are combined – you can use a spoon, but it’s easiest to use your hands.

Roll the mix into small balls – I usually aim for slightly smaller than golf balls. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, and brown the meatballs on all sides – do this in batches if needed, do not crowd the pan otherwise the meat will steam rather than brown. Once brown, remove the meatballs to a plate while you finish browning the remainder.

Add the browned meatballs to the tomato sauce, and stir gently until the meatballs are coated in sauce. Allow to cook for around 15-20 minutes, until the meat is cooked through. Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions, and serve topped with the meatballs and tomato sauce, and some grated parmesan.

Jerusalem artichoke risotto

Jerusalem artichoke risotto

I love Jerusalem artichokes – so much so, in fact, that I was willing to brave the snow here last Saturday to make a trip to our local farmers’ market in search of them. These knobbly, unpromising-looking tubers are well worth getting to know, if you don’t already. They have an earthy sweetness, and are very versatile – in many ways, you can treat them as you would a potato, they are delicious roasted, mashed, sautéed… Yum.

Jerusalem artichokes

My love of sunchokes*, as they are sometimes known over here, is relatively recent. When I first moved to London, I lived with three boys I’d been at university with, and for a few years, we settled into post-student life – that is, a life in which our alcohol intake and level of responsibility placed on us were on a par with our student years, but where jobs + salaries = better funding… We are all now very grown up, of course. The area we lived in was lots of fun, but one thing we were lacking was a place to buy good fruit & veg locally. The situation has improved, and there are now a couple of good farmers’ markets in Brixton and Oval, but before these were up and running we decided to get a weekly veg box from the wonderful Growing Communities at Hackney City Farm. It’s an amazing enterprise, which, among other things, has an organic fruit and veg box scheme, and which has recently won the Observer Food Monthly award for Best Independent Local Retailer. We had no choice about what we received in our weekly supply, and so I cooked for the first time with beetroot, Jerusalem artichoke, kale.. to name but a few. We also used to receive recipe sheets each week with our produce, and one of the weeks included this recipe for Jerusalem risotto, which I made, and promptly fell in love with.

Preparing the artichokes

This is a great recipe – it involves cooking the thinly sliced artichokes down till they’re a jam-like consistency which melts into the risotto and the end result is wonderful. However, full disclosure: it does take a bit of time. It’s not difficult, but peeling and slicing the ‘chokes, and cooking them slowly till they’re all caramelised and yummy, takes a bit of patience. Once they’re cooking, you can do other things (such as washing up after the delicious curry your boyfriend made the night before…), but you do need to be on hand to stir now and then to make sure they don’t catch on the bottom. And, of course, making the risotto itself does take a certain amount of stove time… I would not be posting this, however, if I did not think it was 100% worth it!

Sauteed artichokes

A word about stock – of course, it is much better if you happen to have on hand/have time to make homemade stock. However, if you’re not able to do this, just use a stock cube or bouillon powder – I use them for risotto fairly regularly as I’m rarely organised enough to coincide making risotto with having stock in the house. That’s my tuppence-worth, for what it’s… worth.

Adding the rice

*I was about to write a slightly scathing ‘pah, why are they called sunchokes?’-type comment, when I realised there is no rhyme nor reason to their being called Jerusalem artichokes, either – and when you see the plant’s flowers, the whole ‘sun’choke thing starts to make sense…

Jerusalem artichoke risotto 1

Jerusalem artichoke risotto

Serves 2

  • 2 knobs butter
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion – finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
  • Jerusalem artichokes – approx 10
  • Salt & pepper
  • 200g / 1 cup Arborio risotto rice (or another risotto rice)
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 600ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
  • Approx 1tbsp grated parmesan, plus more to serve

Wash the Jerusalem artichokes, if they are dirty, and peel. Slice them into very thin rounds – you could use a mandolin if you have one. Put the slices into a bowl of water with lemon juice to prevent discolouration.

Heat one of the knobs of butter with the olive oil in a medium sauce pan until the butter has melted. Add the onion and garlic, turn the heat down very low and saute for two minutes. Add the artichokes to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and allow to cook until the mix reaches the consistency of jam/marmalade – this can take around 30-40 minutes. Stir every few minutes, to ensure none of the mix is catching on the bottom of the pan. Heat the stock in a pan, and keep warm on the stove.

Turn the heat up slightly – add the risotto rice and allow to toast slightly, before adding the white wine. Cook, stirring, until the wine has been absorbed. Add the stock a ladle at a time – stir regularly, and allow each ladle of stock to be absorbed before adding the next ladle of stock. Continue this process until the rice is cooked to your liking – you may not need all of the stock, or you may need more. If you run out, continue with hot water. Taste, season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice, if you like.

Take the pan off the heat, add the second knob of butter and the parmesan, and stir until melted. Serve immediately, topped with more grated parmesan.

An Orange Kitchen…? & first recipe post!

I’ve thought a lot about how to begin my blog – what I’d write about first, and how I’d go about it. I also thought a lot about what to call it – and finally I came up with An Orange Kitchen because, well, my kitchen here is orange, and that’s where my blog will be focused. If I’m being honest, I sort of hate the orange – I’m not a big fan of the colour in general, and I certainly wouldn’t paint my kitchen that, were the choice mine.

Unfortunately, the colour is not all that’s wrong with my kitchen – although it’s a massive room, probably nearly double the size of my kitchen back in London, it’s reeeeally impractical. It has basically no workspace at all – there are cupboards down one side, but what with the stove & sink, barely any counter space… Hopeless. We now have a new kitchen table (which I built!), which helps, but… hey ho, we’ll get there.

I also thought a lot about which recipe would be my first post – I wanted it to be something I love, but also something that fits with the time of year and what’s going on here in Boston. Because although it’s really cold here (and apparently I haven’t seen anything yet…), it’s also really bright and sunny, which means that the stews and other hearty fare I normally turn to don’t seem that appropriate. So, instead I went for a dish I cooked for my brother just before I left London, which is warming and wintry without being the type of dish to send you into a food-induced coma.

I spent my final few weeks in London staying at my brother’s, and to help ease the hassle for him and his flatmate, I cooked a lot for them while I was there. One of the meals I made was Nigel Slater’s Duck and crushed cannellini beans from his recent BBC show, which was a hit. However, duck is fairly expensive, and not always that easy to find – but I got to thinking that the dish might work well with lamb chops instead. So when I made it for Noel and I this week, I substituted lamb – happily, it worked really well… in fact, I think I even preferred the meatiness of the lamb to the rich duck. I also made some changes to the flavours – largely because of what I had in the house. I think it worked really well, but equally I think the flavours of the original recipe would also complement the lamb, if you’d rather give that a go.

Pan-fried lamb chops with crushed cannellini beans

Serves 2

  • 4 – 6 Lamb chops (depending on the size of the chops & how hungry you are…)
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled & sliced
  • 400g/14oz tin cannellini beans, drained of some but not all of the soaking liquid
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano or thyme (or a sprig of fresh thyme, if you have some)
  • Squeeze of lemon, to taste
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Heat a good sized frying pan over a fairly high heat until hot, and add the oil. Season the lamb with salt and pepper on each side, and add to the pan – sear quickly until brown on each side but not cooked through. Make sure the meat is brown on both sides. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the garlic – allow to cook for a minute, stirring, until cooked but not brown.

Add the beans to the pan, around the lamb, and allow to cook until the lamb is cooked to your liking – depending on the size of your chops, this should take around 2-3 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove the chops from the pan and allow to rest somewhere warm.

Add the oregano, season with salt and pepper, and allow the beans to cook for a further 5 minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, then take off the heat. Crush the beans slightly with the back of a spoon – you are aiming for a mixture of textures, some beans completely crushed, some partially crushed, and some whole. Serve the beans with lamb chops on top.

Notes:

  • In the original recipe, Nigel uses a duck breast and a whole tin of beans to make a simple supper – we had ours with some roasted squash and steamed green veg, so therefore I used just one tin of beans between two.
  • As I mentioned, I didn’t have all the ingredients to hand, so I substituted dried oregano for the rosemary. I also added some garlic, and I used lemon juice for some acidity as I had no wine, Marsala or otherwise…