Grana Padano No-Meatballs, Fresh Baby Plum Tomato & Garlic Sauce, Spring Vegetables & Basil
We invited Alex Mackay - cook, teacher, cookery writer - to share his everyday recipes for brunch, lunch and dinner with hero ingredient, Grana Padano.
This recipe has a comforting and familiar feel that takes your taste buds to a place where you wonder why balls were ever made of meat. Puglia lentils and Grana Padano make an excellent base for these cheesy beauties that I brighten with basil and supercharge with chermoula spices. You can get a good head start by buying the lentils pre-cooked in pouches or you can cook your own from dried, the chestnut puree comes readymade for you. Transforming from mixture to balls can be a super social occasion; it is delightfully enlightening how much fun cupping and rolling a handful of goodies with a kitchen full of friends can be. The balls can be made 2 days ahead and the dish is great for lunch time sharing.
Serves 4; Preparation time: 45 minutes; Cooking time: 30 minutes; Difficulty: Moderate
1. Get a large bowl. Add the cooked lentils, chermoula spices, and garlic. Mash with a potato masher, enough to break up the lentils, but not quite enough to reduce them to a puree. Mix in the chestnut puree, egg, finely sliced basil and 150g grated Grana Padano. Stir until everything is well combined. Season to taste with salt and more of the spices if you like the heat.
2. Line a baking sheet with non-stick paper. Divide the mixture into 20. Use your hands to roll these portions into firm balls, putting each one onto the lined baking tray as you do. Brush the top of each ball with olive oil. When you are ready, bake the balls for 15 minutes in your pre-heated oven, then turn the oven off and leave the balls to sit in the oven for 5 minutes. They are quite delicate while they are very hot, this makes for better eating.
3. While the balls bake, make the sauce. Get a medium sized shallow pan. Add the garlic, olive oil and a pinch each of salt and sugar. Sweat over a medium heat for 2 minutes, don't let the garlic start to fry. Add the vegetable stock and tomato concentrate. Bring to the boil. Stir to combine the tomato concentrate with the stock. Add the halved baby plum tomatoes, bring back to the boil. Lower the heat then simmer gently for 2 minutes until the tomatoes have softened a little and their juice starts to bleed into the sauce. Take the pan off the heat. Season to taste with salt, sugar to balance the tomatoes acidity and chermoula spices.
4. Boil your green vegetables for 2-3 minutes, drain them thoroughly then return them to the pan over a medium heat for 20 seconds to evaporate away the excess water and thus intensify their flavour. Toss with 1 tbsp of olive oil then season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
5. Heat the sauce. Use a fish slice to carefully transfer the no-meatballs to a bowl, scatter the vegetables over them. Spoon the sauce over everything. Sprinkle with Grana Padano to your heart's content.
Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 6, 200°C
Rack Position Middle Shelf
Using a fan-assisted oven? Click here