Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Swiss Army Knife Meatballs

'That's a strange name for a dish', I hear you saying.  Indeed, however it could just have easily been called 'Macgyver meatballs' or.... I could go on, but I won't.  The reason they are named as such, is because this recipe has many uses.  For those without children, it makes a delicious hamburger mix.  For those with children, not only does it make a delicious hamburger, it can also masquerade as meatballs with napoli sauce, sweet potato burgers, or cheat's ravioli for the kids.  

Kids meatballs and pasta

It's handy to have a kilogram or so of this portioned up in the freezer to make any of the above meals at a moments notice. 

Hamburger Mix/Swiss Army Knife Meatballs

1 kg chuck steak, minced or 1kg regular mince from the supermarket (I prefer to buy chuck and mince it myself, that way I know exactly what's going into the burgers)
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely grated
2 zucchinis, finely grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato relish or sauce
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp barbecue sauce
2 tbsp finely chopped mixed herbs (I use parsley and thyme)
1 egg
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

In a frying pan, gently saute the onion, carrot, zucchini, and garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil.  Allow to cool once the onion is soft.

Mix together (go on, use your hands) in a large bowl.  For hamburgers, form into patties, cover, and chill in the fridge before cooking so they will hold their shape better.

Now's the time you can reach for that army knife.  I'll outline each possibility briefly below.

Cheat's Ravioli

You know those ready made wonton wrappers available at Asian grocers (and sometimes the major supermarkets) - they make quick and easy cheat's ravioli.  I'm sorry if this offends anyone's Italian food sensibilities, but for the kids it saves a lot of time and mess.  

Lay however many wrappers you need out on the bench, slightly separated.  Place a teaspoon sized, and shaped ball of the hamburger mixture slightly towards one corner of each wrapper.  Have a small container of water nearby, dip your finger in, and run it down two adjoining sides of each wrapper.  Fold the wrappers over so the two dry sides meet the two wet sides, and press together.  

You can now steam these in a bamboo steamer basket for approximately five minutes, or until cooked through.  Make sure you leave space between them or they will stick.  (You could boil them instead).  

You can actually freeze these, and defrost for a quick dinner.  Place the ravioli on an oven tray, ensuring they are not touching each other, and place in the freezer.  Freeze until solid, and then place in a plastic bag.  

Frozen cheats ravioli

You can defrost them quickly, throw some onion, carrot, zucchini and garlic into a fry pan and soften, add a few ravioli, then add some tomato passata or tinned tomatoes to make an extremely quick ravioli in napoli sauce.  Not very authentic, but full of flavour and vegies for the kids.  Next up...

Sweet Potato Burgers

Self-explanatory really.  The sole purpose of these is to add even more vegetable content to the meal, and to make it easy for kids to eat with their hands.  

Just peel and cube a small sweet potato, boil until soft (as for mashed potato). Drain, mash, and allow to cool.  Once cool, stir into around 200g of hamburger mixture.  You may need to add a handful of breadcrumbs if the mixture becomes too wet, and won't form into balls.  Cook as you would a regular hamburger.  Finally...

Meatballs and pasta

Very simple once again - you can use the same mix again for very simple meatballs with pasta.  Simply roll up the meatballs using around a teaspoon of mixture, and fry gently until cooked through.  Serve with pasta or rice, and sauce of your choice.  

Hamburgers (For big kids!)

I'm not going to tell you how to do it, but I will tell you my rules - 

  1. The burger must be cooked medium rare, just like a steak
  2. Condiments such as aioli, must be on the bottom half of the bun, topped with your green (lettuce/roquette/spinach) ingredients.  This 'glues' it all in place!
  3. Tomato next, then the meat
  4. The cheese must go in-between the hot ingredients ie. meat, cheese, then bacon.  This allows the cheese to melt more!
  5. If you're not going to put bacon in, don't bother!
Burger example (note: has been constructed upside down, and has the added bonuses of egg, and caramelised onion)

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