meatballs with tomato bulgur
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Meatballs should come in creamy sauce at Ikea. Failing that, they must appear atop spaghetti in tomato sauce. Or you can try something altogether different: my pork meatballs with bulgur wheat.
This is a variation on the theme of two classics beloved by everyone: Swedish meatballs with cream sauce and Italian spaghetti and meatballs.
These are double-pork meatballs, made from good quality pork mince and finely chopped smoked back bacon. Sounds appetising already? Wait for this: the binding agent, apart from some white crumbed bread which is de rigeur in meatballs, is grated Parmesan providing bags of umami alongside the smoky bacon flavour.
A lot will criticise me for not including onions: wait, what? meatballs sans onions? not right! I agree in general that an oniony whiff should be there as you present a plateful of meatballs to the diners but I don’t like onion bits amongst the meat so substituting onion salt instead of plain salt. Two birds and all that. If you’re of the orthodox onion orientation but nod at my bias, grate the onion or whiz it in a blender. I can’t be bothered.
The other part of my ouvre is bulgur replacing pasta. I do love grains so maybe it’s just me but the tomato bulgur, or couscous if that’s what you have in your pantry, seems more interesting than pasta. And it can be gorgeously, deeply tomato flavoured without the need for a rich sauce.
Because thirdly, no sauce. I know – that’s not only not right, it’s a blasphemy to serve meatballs without sauce of some description. But there are benefits to saucelessness – overall calorie intake is lower, some of us prefer it dry, plus you can condiment the dish up according to your preference: mayo, ketchup, hot sauce or herby yoghurt.
meatballs with tomato bulgurServings: makes 18 meatballsTime: 40 minutes plus chilling
- For the meatballs:
- 2 slices of white bread, crust cut off
- 300g (10 oz.) minced pork
- 100g (3 oz.) smoked back bacon, finely diced
- 1 egg
- 20g (1 tbsp.) grated Parmesan
- 1 tbsp. crème fraiche
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
- 1 garlic clove, pressed
- 1 tsp onion salt
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- black pepper
- 3-4 tbsp. vegetable oil, for frying
- For the bulgur:
- 350ml (1 1/3 cup) chicken stock
- ½ tsp anchovy paste
- ½ tsp pepperoncino paste (or chilli paste)
- 30g (2 tbsp.) tomato puree
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 150g (¾ cup) bulgur wheat
1. Whiz the bread in a food processor to rough crumbs. In a bowl mix the pork, bacon, egg, Parmesan, crème fraiche, dill, garlic, onion salt, mustard seeds and a good grinding of black pepper until smooth.
2. Shape walnut-sized balls and place on a tray. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
3. To make the bulgur, stir the anchovy paste, pepperoncino, tomato puree, honey, oregano and basil into the stock.
4. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat, Stir in the bulgur wheat, pour in the seasoned stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 10 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and you can see little tunnels in the surface of the bulgur. Take the pan off the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes or longer, while you fry the meatballs.
5. Heat the oil in a frying pan, large enough to fit the meatballs in one layer. When the oil is shimmering, add the meatballs and fry them on all sides until golden and crisp. If necessary, transfer to a baking dish and keep warm.
6. Serve the meatballs on top of a pile of bulgur wheat, with yoghurt or crème fraiche on the side.