19 May 2010

Steamed meatballs: low fat, gluten-free, casein-free, yummy, versatile and they freeze like a dream.

I've been experimenting with steamed dishes lately, and got to wondering what would happen if I steamed some meatballs. What happened was some tasty magic. These meatballs steamed up beautifully, and tasted so delightful that I couldn't stop eating them as they came out of the steamer. The first time around I made only 40 meatballs, and they didn't even last until suppertime. So here's the recipe and method for making about 110 meatballs. That's enough to eat as many as you like as they come out of the steamer, enough for soup later on, maybe a few for breakfast, then freeze the rest to be popped into soup at another time.

I tried this recipe using various kinds of meat. The recipe below calls for 1.5kg of pork, but you can use chicken, or any combination of pork/beef/lamb. It also calls for cooked rice, so it is a good idea to cook some rice the night before, or at least a couple hours before you need to mix everything together.

Before getting started, wash and trim enough cabbage or romaine lettuce leaves to completely line your steamer.

-1.5 kg raw boneless pork with fat trimmed off
-2 medium onions finely chopped
-3 medium carrots finely chopped
-1 extra-large egg, or 2 small eggs lightly beaten
-400 gm cooked white rice (arborio or other risotto-type rice is good)
-2 tablespoons dried and crushed thyme leaves
-1 teaspoon salt
Optional: 20 large leaves of swiss chard (blitva), washed (I'll explain later)

Get your butcher to coarsely grind your meat. I don't recommend using store-bought pre-ground meat because it tends to be too fatty and too watery. But if that's all you've got, then give it a try. If your butcher doesn't grind meat, then cut your meat up into small cubes, and in small batches, finely chop the meat in your food processor.

Put the meat in a large mixing bowl. Add your chopped onion and chopped carrot, salt and thyme. Add your beaten egg to the mixture. Mix thoroughly with a large spoon or with your hands. Then add the rice and use your hands to thoroughly mix the rice into the meat mixture.

Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (2 hours is better) to let the flavours blend in.

Preparing your steamer:
Add hot water to the bottom of your steamer pot, then place the steaming basket on top of the water. Using your cabbage or romaine lettuce leaves, cover the steamer basket (this will ensure that your food does not stick to the steamer basket). Place lid on steamer, and allow the water to boil.

Remove meat mixture from the fridge, and using a teaspoon, scoop a bit of meat into your hand, and use the spoon to fashion a 2-3cm ball in the palm of your hand. Put the ball on a platter, and continue making balls until all of the meat is used up.

When the steamer is ready, place as many meatballs in the steamer basket as you can, making sure that none of the balls is touching the other balls. Put the lid on and steam for 30 minutes.

Optional: if you like swiss chard (blitva), then you can trim the swiss chard leaves like this:

Then add a meatball to the centre of the leaf,

and roll

Place these little swiss chard rolls in the steamer basket. It is okay if they touch each other. Put the lid on, and steam for 30 minutes.

Here's how it all looks when it is done.

Here's what the swiss chard rolls look like when you cut them open:

And here are the steamed meatballs added to my homemade minestrone and cabbage soup. Add a wee bit of salt to taste, and a generous drizzle of olive oil, and you've got an entire meal in a bowl. Healthy. Tasty. Really tasty.

11 May 2010

Spring has sprung...finally

Winter was rather loooooong, cold and wet. Spring took its time getting here. It was late by about 5 or 6 weeks. Fresh local lettuce and swiss chard is just starting to appear at the farmers market. But as they say: better late than never. In the meantime, the spring flowers have bloomed and are staying fresh longer due to the cooler weather. I thought I'd post some pictures of the types of flowers that just sort of grow EVERYWHERE. Above are giant boughs of purple wisteria that smell just like pink bubble-gum. Honestly. The bees LOVE this stuff.

Below, some more wisteria with wild chestnut tree in full bloom in the background:

White hydreangea:

Intense pink magnolia:

Jumbo pink peony bush. Unimaginable fragrance!