This recipe is inspired by something I cooked for my children from the new Ella’s Kitchen cookbook. It’s packed with great recipes for children, aged from the baby years to Tweens, which got me wondering whether I could give them an adult twist, too. And, of course, the answer is emphatically, ‘Yes’.
A twist of chilli, a slurp of cream and a hearty grating of strong Parmesan cheese transformed my children’s marvellous meatballs into spicy sensations. The sauce itself is a revelation, involving blitzing together five different vegetables. Both hearty and healthy.
For the meatballs
3 tbsp apple puree
Handful chopped mixed nuts (optional)
2 tbsp finely chopped sage leaves
500g lean minced pork
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1. To make the apple puree, peel, core and chop 2 eating apples. Steam until soft, then mash with a fork.
2. Place the breadcrumbs and sage in a large bowl and add 50ml boiling water. Allow the mixture to soak for 2-3 mins, until the water has been absorbed and the mixture is cool enough to handle.
3. Add the pork, apple puree and nutmeg and use your hands to mix together until fully combined. Mould the mixture into 24 mini meatballs.
4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the meatballs over a low heat for 15 mins, turning occasionally, until cooked through.
5. Mix the meatballs with with Five-Veg Pasta Sauce (see below) and serve with a mound of spaghetti topped with grated Parmesan. (If you aren’t using all the meatballs at once, you can freeze them – uncooked or cooked and then cooled completely – for up to a month).
For the Five-Veg sauce
This sauce is clever for two reasons. First, there are lots of ways to use it – poured over pasta, or over meatballs, or stirred into couscous, or as a healthy alternative to ketchup. Second, it’s packed to brim with veggie goodness. It’s also perfect for freezing into handy portions.
1 carrot, peeled diced
200g butternut squash, peeled and diced
50g frozen peas, defrosted
415g can baked beans
400g can chopped tomatoes
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp hot chilli powder (optional)
100ml double cream (optional)
1. In a saucepan of boiling water, cook the carrot, squash and peas for 7-8 mins, until tender. Drain in a sieve, then return to the pan.
2. Add the baked beans and puree with a hand blender until smooth.
3. Return the pan to the heat. Add both the canned and fresh tomatoes and bring everything to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 4-5 mins until the fresh tomatoes are soft and pulpy.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and puree again until you have a beautifully smooth sauce. Add the chilli and cream to make the adult version.
• Ella’s Kitchen Foundation is a charity which funds innovative academic research to improve knowledge of young children’s relationships with food and their attitudes to a healthy diet. Ten per cent of the profits from the book go to the Foundation.