Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Sort of summery meatballs - or how a slow cooker saved my life

Today, I have mostly won.

First thing, it had been lovely and sunny. I had a load of bedding that I had washed yesterday, sitting, damp, in the laundry basket. I went outside. I looked to all points of the compass. Not one single menacing dark cloud. Anywhere. I hung the washing out.

Later on, I had a hilarious conversation with a South African friend as we walked our dogs through the fields - hers taking every opportunity to sit in the muddiest of muddy puddles, mine buggering off into the wheat as soon as I stopped concentrating.

By the time we were half way across the fields, the clouds were gathering in again. I started my "Typical, just when I'd got the washing out" speech and she creased up. "You know, you are just so BRITISH" she roared with laughter. "I have sworn never to fall into this WAR with the weather that you have going on here. hang it up, take it in, always watching for the rain. Did you know my mother in law RINGS ME UP to tell me she got the washing dry outside?!?" I had to laugh, but there it is. That's me all over.

It's not just the washing - although that has been a particular issue recently. I mean, I don't want to go on about the weather, but it has been foul and we don't have a tumble dryer. So a day when it might not rain just galvanises me into action. "What can I wash?" I think. And on the touch and go days, I suffer angst about whether to put the washing out or not. Lucky that is all I have to suffer angst about these days, I know...

Anyway, I digress. I was talking about being at war - on the domestic front. May be 'war' is a strong word, but as the end of term approaches, I feel like every morning, I have to arm myself more carefully to face the day and the various challenges it is likely to offer.

I was feeling very pleased with myself last week having sorted out a mega-meal plan to get me through the rest of the month, part of my armour. It covers the end of term, and through to when we get back from Scout Camp. I finished it, posted it up on a linky, and felt organised. So short sighted.

check out the veg - all from the garden
 Last night, having served up a salad which, I am proud to say,  was almost exclusively from the garden (lettuce, spring onions, new potatoes, broad beans and eggs), I checked the menu plan for the meal for this evening. Meatballs. This would have been fine, but when I did the meal plan, it had been my intention to make them last night. However, at that point, when I consulted said plan, the meat was still in the freezer. I retrieved it anyway and started pondering how to make it work in the grand scheme of today which involved my usual working day, followed by picking the kids up at 4.30 and going straight to Pink's end of term 'ballet show' (something straight out of Joyce Grenfell, believe me!), not due to finish till 7, while the Husband would be back
and needing something to eat before heading off to Scouts
- at around 7. The timing was not looking good.

Salvation came in the form of the slow cooker - in fact, The Ultimate Slow Cooker which is a book I bought on the off chance through one of those Book People type things when Pink was at Playgroup. I'd been flicking through it the other day to work out how to do some gammon in the slow cooker, and I remembered that I'd seen a meatball recipe in there. Just the job. One of the things I love about slow cooking is that 'Everything is done" feeling, and today was a day where I needed that. That's not to say that you don't have to do all the prep etc, but it's done far enough away from the time you eat it that when you finally sit down to eat, you can forget that you were trying to make meatballs and packed lunches at the same time as listen to reading, take on board the Husband's schedule for the day and worry about whether anyone needed swimming kit....

Anyway, I made the meatballs up themselves this morning, and left them in the fridge while I took reckless pleasure in hanging out washing, putting a second load on (I know how to live dangerously), getting the kids to school, walking the dog and finally getting down to work. Then while I was grabbing a sandwich at lunchtime, I fried off the meatballs, made the sauce and put everything in the slow cooker to do their thang. Once we got in, it was a moment's work to cook some pasta, and bingo. Dinner.

I was particularly pleased with this meatball recipe that I made up (I used the book for sauce volume and cooking times). When I was chopping up the spring onions from the garden yesterday, I decided, on the back of the success of my garlic scape risotto, that I would use the spring onion tops instead of onion in the meatball recipe.

They took a bit of chopping up because they are kind of 'hollow', so when you slice you get a little green circle, and it needs to be quite small to go in the meatballs, but I treated them a little like herbs and used a mezza luna (one of those semi circular knives with a handles at each end that Nigella uses). 

Sort of Summery Meatballs


For the meatballs - 400g lamb mince, a handful of spring onion tops - or a red onion, finely chopped, 1 clove of garlic, crushed, a slice of bread - a day or 2 old is good, a medium egg, salt and pepper, finely grated zest of a lemon

For the sauce - olive oil, 1 onion, finely chopped, 2 cloves of garlic, crushed, 1 can of chopped tomatoes, 200ml veg stock, salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar.

Method: to make the meatballs, put all the ingredients in a bowl, mash together with a fork until well combined and the bread is broken into crumbs throughout the mixture. You could make the bread into crumbs first in a food processor but I was short on time. Make into between 16 and 20 meatballs depending on the size you like them. I divided the mixture into 4 then into 4 again, then rolled each portion into a ball (with apologies for stating the obvious).

Set the slow cooker to heat up, splash some oil into a frying pan (I used a dessert spoon's worth), and brown the meatballs on quite a high heat. Set aside on kitchen paper, and then in the same pan, fry the onion & garlic till it is starting to soften, pour in the stock and tomatoes, scraping up all the good stuff from the bottom of the pan, add freshly ground salt and pepper and the sugar. Bring to the boil. While the sauce is coming to the boil, pop the meatballs in the slow cooker, then once the sauce is bubbling, pour it on top and replace the lid of the cooker. Cook on 'low' for 6-8 hours, and then serve with pasta - or rice or couscous...


  1. Ooh very pleased to have found your blog....I am ALWAYS on the look out for new recipes! So with you on that whole weather thing, us Brits seem to be talking of nothing else at the moment and even I am tired of the sound of my own voice!

    1. Thanks for your comment! Fortuately, this morning we are basking in glorious sunshine - and yes, I have managed to find some more things to wash - got to make the best of it you know ;-)

  2. This sounds really good, I'm going to try it for the kids later, instead of the usual spag bol. Will let you know how it goes down, thanks!

    1. They were mighty tasty. Doing it in the slow cooker made the meatballs much more tender somehow. Especially when i've used lamb mince before, just simmering them in the sauce on the stove top sometimes made them a little tough, but they were really melt in the mouth from the slow cooker - I feel a slpow cooking phase coming on!

    2. Indeed they were might tasty! Thanks for the recipe, I've blogged it and linked to yours. Hope that's ok! Yum yum yum.

    3. no problem at all - thanks for the link. Also glad you did them pan fried - I was going to add it on to my post but I ran out of steam!

  3. These look just grest. Great that you linked in, thanks. have a good one

  4. These sound devine! We love meatballs but struggle to do in the week usually, as I like to simmer them in the sauce for a good half an hour. I am so pleased you linked up to my Ultimate Slow Cooker Recipe Collection at Yummy Mummy? Really? I'll let you know how I get on when I try this. :-)

  5. Oh no... my conment disappeared on me...ggrrr. Did it save?

    1. Yep, it was there - soory, I've got it set up so that I see the comments before they are published. I was pleased to work out that you could do meatballs in a slw cooker - these are brill.


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