Last week, in an attempt to use up some chicken sausage in my freezer, I made these meatballs because I was so completely out of ideas. It turns out that they were insanely good and even got a “mmmm, this is REALLY good” out of my non-foodie husband. Even better is that my kids both had 3 meatballs with their spaghetti (without the chilli, obviously).
I know so many of you might think that I plan our meals weeks in advance and have all the ingredients in the house all the time, but I really don’t. As much as possible I like to plan at least a week in advance but sometimes I forget to buy something or I’m just too lazy to go to the grocery store so I use what I have in the freezer. I’m just lucky that my pantry and freezer are usually pretty well stocked with the basics for any good meal.
I’ve decided to add a “In My Pantry” section to my blog so that you can see what I have in my house all the time. I am absolutely positive that the reason I can cook yummy food for my family every night is because I have the basics around, all the time. I’ve gotten e-mail after e-mail from readers asking if it’s really necessary to use this spice in that dish and that oil to fry that, and my answer is always “You can substitute or omit anything in my recipes, but it won’t taste the same”.
I use quite a lot of spice in my food. Not necessarily chilli (although you should know by now that I have a particular soft spot for it), but earthy, warm spices like Ground Coriander, Cumin, Cloves and Nutmeg. All of these feature prominently in my cooking because they make a difference. If you don’t believe me, try adding some grated Nutmeg to your mashed potatoes and taste the difference. Or add some cloves, cinnamon and coriander to your next Bolognese. It doesn’t add too much flavour so that your family will say “what the heck is in here?” but it will just add that warmth and depth that will make them say “mmm..what did you do different?”
And I know that it might seem expensive when you want to buy all these spices at once, so don’t do that. Buy one or two bottles this month, and another two next month. That way you’ll build up your spice collection and you’ll see what you really like and what you would prefer to not cook with. Spices can last you really long and if you have the time, buy the whole spice and ground it yourself, this way it will always stay fresh and you don’t need to use as much of it as it will be quite pungent. For cheaper spices I always go to the Indian Spice shops. They can mix and match any spice for you and buying from them always works out cheaper. When I go to Durban I go to their spice shops and I stock up for the rest of the year. If the spice is kept in an air-tight container it will last that long, I promise! To make things easy for you, I’ll suggest the first two spices that you need to buy. Cinnamon and Coriander (whole or ground). If you already have these, why not try something a bit more adventurous? Cinnamon goes beyond just pancakes. I sprinkle some on my kids’ oats in the morning (very good to maintain blood sugar levels) and I even add 1/2 tsp to Bolognese. It adds the most incredibly warm and inviting aromas. Coriander is probably already a favourite of yours if your South African as it’s a prominent flavour in both Biltong and Boerewors. I use it in almost every meat dish I make as it just enhances the flavours intensely.
I’ll also be making a post next week about the spices I have in my pantry and the ways I use them. This will give you a better idea of the versatility of spices and will hopefully inspire you to become more creative in the kitchen.
Back to these meatballs, I used chicken sausage (I squeezed the meat from the casings), but you can use chicken mince as well. Chicken is quite a ‘soft’ meat to work with so to roll meatballs, you need to add a bit more breadcrumbs than you would with beef meatballs, but I suggest you add bit by bit and see how the mixture rolls. I baked my meatballs in a Marinara sauce and served it on Pasta (similar to my Cheesy meatballs) but you could also pan fry them which is a great way to cook them if you want to make a delish Meatball sandwich. You could also serve them in pita’s like I did with my Spicy Lamb Meatballs. The possibilities are endless. And of course you can leave out the chillies if you’re not a fan.
Makes approximately 15 meatballs (depending on size)
1kg chicken sausage meat / chicken mince
1-2 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped Parsley
1 chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
juice of 1/2 lemon
- Combine the chicken with the egg, 1 cup of breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, chilli and spices. Mix well. If the texture seems a bit too loose, add more breadcrumbs.
- I like to fry just a small piece of the chicken mixture to ensure the seasoning is correct. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Cook the meatballs as desired and serve.