Meatball variations

Meatball variations

Summer in the city: it’s a humid, grime-filled cacophony. The din from road and rail works in Borough have been joined by the TV blare of football matches and thumping music from countless open windows. Except for the DJs next door, whose music and fag smoke somehow finds it’s way through factory-thick walls.

It’s a long way from a tiny sandy cove in Corfu and the barbeque we enjoyed a couple of weeks ago.David and Alex Ashcroft occasionally organise a beach barbie for friends, who all bring along food and wine. If I had been sensible, I’d have taken marinated chops or similar; but no I ended up making meatballs (keftedes, Greek or polpette, Italian). I have to confess my recipe depends more on what’s in my fridge than the country I’m in – and I like to make them walnut size and that adds about 30 minutes to the prep time.

They can be baked or fried and, I’m pleased to report, they’re also good grilled. In fact, this is an incredibly flexible meat mixture. Sometimes I use good quality sausages instead of ground pork, in which case I reduce the quantity of breadcrumbs down to 20g/1 slice as they contain some rusk already.

If you wanted to be more Greek, omit the Parmesan and use dill or oregano (rigani) instead of parsley. Italians like to use equal quantities of chicken, beef and pork. If you fancied albóndigas – Spanish meatballs – you could add smoked paprika, or do what my friend Pizarro does, and add a nugget of blue cheese to the middle of each meatball.

Or you can be really lazy and pat the mixture into a brick shape, wrap it in tin foil and bake in the oven – and you’ve made meat loaf!

Makes around 40 meatballs – enough for 8 people

500g ground beef
500g ground pork
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, minced
30g grated parmesan
60g breadcrumbs
2 large free range eggs, beaten
juice and zest of a lemon
knife tip of cayenne pepper
a scrape or two of nutmeg
15g (a handful) parsley, chopped
Olive oil for frying

Mix all the ingredients, except the olive oil together. The easiest way to do this is with your hands: really squish everything together thoroughly. Wet your hands, and roll walnut ball size pieces of the mixture into a spherical (ish) shape. Arrange the balls on a flat baking tray, cover and chill for a few hours – this not only lets the flavours develop, it helps firm them up and less liable to disintegrate if you’re going to barbeque them.

If this is the case, brush with a little olive oil clamp them on whatever those square net things are called and grill over gentle embers for about 3 minutes on each side. You can tell I wasn’t in charge.

If you’re not communing with nature and just attempting to get supper on the table, heat a large frying pan, add a puddle of oil and fry the meat balls, 6 or so at a time – over crowd them and they’ll steam and you want them to brown nicely.

Eat! In pitta, with pasta, or cheese, or tzatziki, the possibilities are endless.