Meatballs & the art of cooking in bulk

I have a friend (who’s from Somalia), and I realised that she would always leave a bit of food on her plate during meals. And being someone who tends to finish everything on her plate, I had to ask why. It turns out that in her culture, it’s considered polite to leave a small amount of food on a plate after a meal, especially if it’s a dinner hosted by family or friends. The reasoning behind this is that leaving a small amount means that the host has provided enough food for the evening – finishing everything on your plate means that the quantity of food has been insufficient. Very different from our Chinese culture where your aunty/grandma will get highly upset if you leave anything on your plate…. Then again, if you DO finish your food, more often than not you’ll find more food “magically” appearing on your plate.

I cook in bulk amounts on a regular basis. And when I say bulk, I mean bulk. There are only 2 of us at home, but I tend to cook for 4 on a regular basis. The main reason is that I have no ability to estimate quantities, and being a typical Chinese person, I tend to overcook rather than undercook. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as it means I have leftovers for the days when I’m too tired to cook dinner after a long day of work. Also, some food like stews taste much better after a day in the fridge!

Cooking in bulk is something I always do when it comes to meatballs. I tend to buy 1 kg of meat (sometimes I use a mixture of pork/turkey/beef), and make a shedload of meatballs so I have an emergency stash in the freezer. Believe me when I say it comes in handy after a long tiring day at work!

On this occasion, I served my meatballs in a tomato sauce, with some brown rice and rocket leaves. Speaking of which, I need to speak of this brown basmati, red camargue and wild rice mixture that I get from Waitrose. It’s a brilliant mix of grains – the nuttiness of the various types of rice work very well together, and give the perfect amount of “bite”. At £2 for a 500g bag, it doesn’t come cheap, but I allow myself the indulgence every now and again. (I tell myself it’s healthy and therefore it’s okay you see).

Meatballs in tomato sauce

For the meatballs:

  • 500g pork mince
  • 500g turkey mince
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • pepper & salt, to taste (I usually use about 1 teaspoon’s worth of each)

1. Whizz the garlic, thyme and rosemary in a food processor (or in my case, a mini food processor). Alternatively, chop finely with a knife.
2. Put the pork and turkey mince in a large mixing bowl, and add the garlic & herb mixture, breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper. Use hands (or a spoon) to combine the ingredients. It should form a mushy, sticky mixture.
3. Form mixture into 2-3cm balls, depending on how large you like your meatballs.
4. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
5. Whilst waiting for the oven, heat a pan over medium high heat, and brown the meatballs. This should not take more than 2 minutes per meatball.
6. Bake meatballs for 15-20 minutes in the oven, until cooked. (I play a guessing game when it comes to this, but 20 minutes is usually more than enough for my meatballs)

Note: You can freeze the meatballs after step 3, which is handy to have for a quick weekday dinner. (I tend to do this as 1kg of meat does make a significant amount of meatballs!) A good tip is to arrange the meatballs nicely on a tray before freezing them, as it means you get to have individually frozen meatballs (rather than a “clump” that becomes tricky to seperate once it’s frozen). I hope I’m making some sense here!

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (I use chopped tomatoes with garlic and olive oil – any brand will do)
  • 1 tablespoon chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

1. Mix all the ingredients in a pan over medium heat. Bring to the boil.
2. Once the sauce starts to boil, add the cooked meatballs to the tomato sauce, and stir to coat the meatballs.
3. Serve the meatball/tomato sauce mix with brown rice & some rocket. Or you could serve it with pasta. Or some freshly baked bread. Anything goes really!