Monday, March 14, 2011

It Sounds Like Catfood But It Tastes Like Amazing

Clearly I'm being a bit of a lapse-daisical Catholic with my Fishy Friday post on a Monday, but allow me to very quickly distract you: TUNA MEATBALLS. Ok - what's your reaction? It sounds like a variety of Whiskas, doesn't it? But here's the thing: they are delicious, refreshing, comforting, easy to make...what more could one want from a dinner, eh? I am inclined to think that they might be a good way to get some omegas into fish-haters, being, as they are, deceptively chunky and tomatoey and herby. Small children, in particular, could be duped into munching up their EFAs by leaving out the word 'tuna' that goes in there before the word 'meatballs', if a parent were so inclined - not that I'm saying you should lie to your children in order to get them to eat healthy things, mind. Anyhow, if you have to disclose to your butcher what you are using the tuna for when you buy it, prepare to be laughed at - that's what happened to me, anyhow. I just love me some fresh tuna, lightly seared on the pan with a dose of sesame seeds is absolutely delish, but it's worth spending a little bit more time with your tuna to make these meatballs. It also makes your tuna go a little further, a bonus for the budget-conscious among us. Eating it all chunked up in meatballs gives a whole new perspective on the fish, in terms of both flavour and texture. This one is courtesy of Jamie's Italy, a loving celebration of the simplicity of Italian cooking - as ever, JO's enthusiasm really fires up the book, he clearly very genuinely fell for the country and its people. Though it's hard not to, it's one of my favourite places to visit, and the simplest food can taste just incredible there. The sunshine, of course, could be a factor there. Er, yeah, ok, there's usually a glass/bottle of something involved as well.

Slice up that tuna (400g) into nice big chunks - good substantial cubes are what you need here, you don't want it falling apart and spoiling your meatballs.

Cinnamon (1 teaspoon) and pine nuts (55g) add a whole new texture and sweetness to the tuna. Browning it only takes about five minutes.

While that's browning up, get the rest in gear: 1 teaspoon dried oregano, a handful of shopped parsley, 100g breadcrumbs, 55g grated parmesan, zest of 1 lemon.

Let the cooked tuna chunk mixture cool a little...

...then pop it in a bowl with the other ingredients, crack 2 eggs on top and squeeze in the juice from that lemon.

Do the squelchy-squidgy meatball-making thing with that little lot, but don't go overboard - the tuna chunks need to stay nice and chunky and not flake out.

They need to be shaped with a light, gentle, damp touch into small golf balls and then half an hour in the fridge to firm up.

While they're chilling out in the fridge, a nice thick tomato sauce needs to get underway. For some reason he puts this one at the start of the recipe, when it's much more time-smart to throw it together while the tunaballs (hmmm...just trying that out...don't really think it works...) are in the fridge. 1 onion and 4 cloves of garlic in the pot for 10 minutes to soften up, then 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 2 tins of tomatoes, all simmering away for 15 minutes. I used a red onion because I mistakenly assumed I had a great big stash of white onions in my vegetable basket, but I think that it adds a perfect sweetness, overall.

There's a discernible difference in the omega-orbs (no - a bit...stupid, actually) when they come out of the fridge - they're considerably more together, no bits flying off them, threatening to laugh in the face of your attempts to make a civilised meal, rather than an unwieldy mash-up of complementary foodstuffs. Not that I'm averse to such a thing. Still, I like to make a effort when feeding others.

These are thoroughly manageable to brown, they don't fall apart the way meatballs made with mince do. It's probably the chunkiness of the tuna that helps that, I would imagine. I am also very conscious of moving them around as little as possible while they brown - meatballs that just come apart at the poke of a fork before they have made it from the pan to the plate just make me want to cry.

Smother those fishy footballs (that would work if they were being fed to small children) with the thick tomato sauce. I'm not inclined to crack out the hand blender, I think that leaving it nice and chunky makes it delightfully rustic and hearty.

But of course they are plopped a-top some fresh spaghetti.
I reckon I'll stick to calling them tuna meatballs, in the absence of any obvious, appetising-sounding alternative. 


  1. I love this recipe, have cooked it loads of times. Think the cinnamon in the meatballs really makes a difference. I normally put a little bit in the sauce to.

  2. Ooo, that's a good idea - I've only really started using cinnamon in savoury dishes lately, it really adds a distinctive spicy sweetness.