Sunday, 4 March 2012

Chicken and Sweetcorn Meatballs

I was somewhat late to the Ottolenghi table.  I'm not even sure why; I mean, just look how delicious all these sound.  His flavour combinations are right up my street, and I love the sound of his spices.  I hang my head in shame as to how long it took me to get round to making my first recipe.

But, I never can resist a good meatball, so when I read about these little beauties, I had to give them a go.  Even more pressing, I first made them in the run-up to the Rugby World Cup last year, when we would be hosting two very special visitors from home, Andy's Dad, Selwyn, and his good friend and partner-in-crime, Roy.  When I'm cooking for just the two of us most of the time, and for a good chunk of the week just for me if Andy's working in the evening, I can take more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach; when we had visitors staying with us for close to a month, I needed to get somewhat more organised, and so fell happily on anything I could prepare in the calm before the storm, freeze, and serenely present it to our guests, beatific smile on my face, and act as if I was quite the domestic goddess.  Between you, me and the gatepost, no description could be further from the truth - fine, my baking is ok, but my dusting skills fall sadly short of the mark - so anything to make my life easier is A Good Thing.

These were so lovely I made them again recently.  They are light enough to suit the late summer season (or early autumn, as we are in now - I blame St David, as 1st March is the first day of autumn here).  And, true to expectations, it was the spice element that really makes them zing.  The cumin is a beautiful element of the flavour, and the sweet/sour sauce, from the perfect merging of these ingredients, is good enough to drink by itself, from the bowl.  Although obviously I didn't do that.  OBVIOUSLY. 

A few adaptations from the original - turkey mince is surprisingly hard to find here, so I made the obvious sub of chicken mince, and actually made my own from free-range boneless thighs, I used wholemeal bread instead of the original's white bread, and for the sauce, I used one of those handy jars of marinated, roasted red peppers, instead of roasting my own.  I know, I know, but I already had one in and it seemed the easier route, plus I couldn't tell any difference from the previous time when I did DIY the peppers.

Chicken and Sweetcorn Meatballs with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

For the Meatballs:
100g frozen sweetcorn kernels
3 slices of wholemeal bread, crusts removed
500g boneless chicken thighs, minced
1 free-range egg
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
2.5 tsp ground cumin
1.5 tsp salt
0.5 tsp black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
Olive oil, for frying

For the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:
4 roasted red peppers, from a jar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
25g coriander, leaves and stalks
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 small mild chilli, deseeded
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tbsp cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

Preheat your oven to 200C.

Put all the ingredients for the sauce in a blender or a food processor, and blitz until smooth.  Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and set aside.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium to high heat, and toast the sweetcorn kernels, tossing occasionally (I love this as I get the chance to practice my cheffy pan-flicky thing, resulting in sweetcorn all over the hob and the floor) until they are well-toasted, and starting to char in some places.  Leave to cool.

Soak the bread in water, squeeze it well to remove the excess liquid, and crumble into a large mixing bowl.  Add all the other meatball ingredients except the oil, and mix well.  Form into meatballs about the size of golf balls.

Heat the oil in your frying pan over a medium to high heat, and, in batches, fry the meatballs until they are brown on all sides.  Transfer to a baking sheet, and cook in your preheated oven - mine took about 10 minutes, it's best to check with one that it's cooked through because of the variables in this - the size of your meatballs, how much you brown them, etc.  Anyway, they don't take long.

Serve with your red pepper sauce on the side.  I like mine with a simply-dressed green salad.

Serves 4