Beef Meatball Curry

I used to associate meatballs with Italian food or IKEA 😉, but they are a lot more versatile than I initially thought. They work really well in this Indian inspired curry. The meatballs themselves are seasoned with onion and chilli, and the tomato-based sauce contains an aromatic blend of spices and creamy coconut milk which ensures full-on flavours with every bite.

Beef Meatball Curry Recipe

Serves: 4

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS

For the meatballs:

  • 1 tbsp light olive oil
  • 700 g lean beef mince
  • 0.5 large onion finely diced
  • 1 green chilli finely diced
  • 3 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1.5 tbsp dried coriander leaf
  • 1 tsp salt

For the curry sauce:

  • 1 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1.5 large onions finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 thumb sized piece ginger finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 0.5 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 0.5 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 400 g tin chopped tomato
  • 400 ml tin coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 180 g spinach

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C fan (or 200°C conventional oven), line a baking tray with grease proof paper and brush with the oil. In a large bowl combine the mince, onion, chilli, garam masala, garlic powder and coriander leaf.
  2. Shape into 24 meatballs and spread them out on the prepared baking tray. Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes until the balls have browned turning halfway.
  3. In the meantime make the curry sauce. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on a medium heat and fry the onion, garlic and ginger until softened for around 7 to 10 minutes.
  4. Pour in the spices (coriander, cumin, turmeric, chilli powder, mustard powder and cinnamon) and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir in the coconut milk.
  6. Add the cooked meatballs to the pan.
  7. Cook on a low heat with the lid on for 40 minutes. Be sure to stir the curry every 20 minutes.
  8. Add the spinach to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes with the lid on until wilted.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.

NOTES

  • For an even more flavoursome meatball, prepare the meatballs the day before and leave overnight in the fridge to marinade.
  • This also works well with lamb mince.
  • I use mild chilli powder in this dish to make it toddler friendly, but if you like spice then you may want to use the hot (or extra hot) version.
  • Serve with steamed basmati rice and a side salad.

Ackee and Saltfish

Ackee and saltfish is the national dish of Jamaica. In Jamaica it is eaten as a breakfast dish, but I think it is perfect for any time of the day. Ackee is a fruit, and like in this dish, it is often cooked as a vegetable. When cooked it resembles and has the texture of scrambled eggs, but has a mild nutty and slightly sweet flavour. The saltfish is dried salted white fish, normally cod (but sometimes pollock or snapper), that has been soaked or boiled in water to rehydrate it and remove most of the salt it was preserved in to make it palatable. The preservation method definitely gives the saltfish a flavour that you cannot obtain from using fresh fish. When combined together the nutty sweetness of the ackee melds so well with the texture and flavour of the saltfish, and it’s so deliciously unique.

Ok, so by now if you were not already familiar with ackee and saltfish then you’re probably thinking of exploring the other parts of my blog or leaving my site completely, BUT PLEASE DON’T RUN AWAY! As exotic as ackee and saltfish seems, it is actually such an easy dish to cook. The ingredients can be found in the “World Foods” section in many of the larger UK supermarkets. And the flavour explosion you’ll have is definitely worth sticking around for.

Now, from my “About” page you may already know that I’m half Jamaican. I’m very proud of my Jamaican heritage, which is why I’d love to share a little bit more about the history and origin of this dish which is steeped in colonialism. I think ackee and saltfish is a perfect reflection of the history of the Jamaican people and is so fitting as a national dish.

Ackee is actually indigenous to West Africa and was brought over from Ghana to Jamaica in the eighteenth century. The fruit itself grows on trees and the closest thing I can liken it to in appearance is a sweet pepper (or bell pepper). As the fruit grows it changes colour from green, to red to orange and as it does this it splits open to reveal three black seeds, and this is how you know it is ripe and ready to be picked.

As for saltfish, this was introduced to the Caribbean in around the seventeenth century. It was brought over from North America in trade ships which would return from the Caribbean with delicacies of this era such as rum and sugar. The preservation method of the cod was ideal for preventing the fish from perishing during the long transatlantic journey. Due to the abundance of cod at the time saltfish was bought as an inexpensive source of protein for the enslaved people. It blows my mind to think about how people going through so much injustice, pain and sorrow could find the passion and creativity in their hearts to produce a dish as resplendent and flavoursome as ackee and saltfish. I’d like to imagine that when this dish was eaten it provided a moment of comfort and hope, even if it was just a fleeting moment.

Ackee and Saltfish Recipe

Serves: 4

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 35-40 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 250 g skinless and boneless salt fish
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 0.5 tsp dried thyme)
  • 3 spring onions (white and green part separated and finely chopped)
  • 2 tomatoes diced
  • 0.5 Scotch bonnet chilli finely diced
  • 4-5 pimento berries crushed
  • 0.5 tsp ground black pepper
  • 540 g tinned ackee (drained)

METHOD

  1. Hold the salt fish under the cold tap to rinse off the visible flakes/grains of salt. Then place in a medium sized saucepan.
  2. Cover the fish with cold water and bring the pan to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Use a fork to break off a small piece of and taste it to check the salt levels.
  4. If it is too salty then drain the water and repeat steps 2 and 3 until the salt level is just right for your taste. Remember, you want to remove most of the salt, but leave in just enough for the flavour.
  5. Once the salt level is to your taste drain the water and use two forks to break the fish into large chunks. Set aside for later.
  6. Next, preheat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan using a medium heat.
  7. Add in the onions, the white parts of the spring onion, chilli, pimento, and thyme and give them a good mix. Then add in the garlic.
  8. Once the onions have softened and are translucent add in the chopped tomatoes and stir for about 3 minutes.
  9. Stir in the salt fish and season with black pepper (and salt if you feel you have removed too much during the boiling of the salt fish).
  10. Add in the ackee. Gently use a wooden spoon to distribute the ackee evenly in the pan, but do not mix it as it is very soft and delicate and will start to break up. Cover the pan with the lid and leave to steam for five minutes. Garnish with the green part of the spring onion before serving.

NOTES

  • As I mentioned above, saltfish, ackee, pimento and the scotch bonnet pepper can normally be found in the larger supermarkets here in the UK. Head to the fruit and veg section for the scotch bonnet pepper. The ackee, saltfish and pimento should be found in the “World Foods” section. The ackee will be in a tin, the saltfish will be packaged in a plastic tray normally wrapped in a clear plastic film, and the pimento berries are normally packaged in a plastic tube.
  • Break the saltfish into large chunks around 2-3 cm long as it will break down further when cooking.
  • Tinned ackee is very soft and fragile (it is boiled first prior to being tinned) so always add it in last and do not stir heavily.
  • Serve with white rice, fried dumplings or hard food (a combination of boiled yam, green bananas and dumplings).

Filipino Adobo

One dish that we ate regularly during my childhood is adobo. It’s a dish that brings me comfort to this day. My mum would make it for dinners, and our friends would cook it when we would visit their houses. Every Filipino has their own way of cooking adobo, and I will share my very own version.

Adobo is the unofficial traditional dish of the Philippines (and should not be confused with the Mexican/Spanish/Portuguese marinades bearing the same name). It normally consists of chicken or pork, or sometimes both, braised in vinegar, and soy sauce, and delicately flavoured with black pepper and bay leaves. Once it’s cooked up the flavours mesh together to form what I can only describe as adobo-y yumminess. It’s neither salty or sour, it’s just a hearty savouriness that’s unique to Filipino adobo.

It’s so tasty and simple to make, definitely worth a try.

Filipino Adobo Recipe


Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Marinating Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g skinless and boneless chicken thighs
  • 500 g pork belly strips (each strip cut into 3 pieces)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 15 ml white vinegar
  • 45 ml lemon juice
  • 120 ml low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 240 ml water
  • 1 tsp brown sugar

METHOD

  1. Add the chicken, pork, garlic, white vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, bay leaves and black pepper (essentially all the ingredients apart from the water and the sugar) to a large bowl and mix together.
  2. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge to marinade for at least 1 hour or over night.
  3. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan.
  4. Scrape the marinade from the meat (as best as possible) and set aside the marinade for later.
  5. Brown the meat in batches on a high heat. Fry each piece for roughly a minute on each side.
  6. After the meat is browned add all the pieces back into the saucepan.
  7. Add the water and bring the pot to a boil. Then reduce the heat to simmer.
  8. Simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the meat is cooked through.
  9. Stir in the sugar and continue to simmer for a further 5 minutes.

NOTES

  • Meat with a generous fat content is an absolute must in this dish as the fattiness of the meat adds to the flavour. It will not taste the same if you use chicken breast. Chicken legs or even boneless chicken thighs will work though if you’re not keen on meat on the bone.
  • Steps 3 to 6 are optional. If you are pushed for time then you can just add the marinaded meat straight to the saucepan and continue from step 7. However, I find that browning the meat in advance adds a little extra flavour.
  • If you’re not a fan of pork you can use 1kg of chicken thighs instead, either with the bone in or boneless. If using bone-in thighs then increase the simmering time in step 8 by and additional 10 minutes. Likewise this dish also works great with just pork, although I would stick to just 500 g of pork belly and use an additional 500 g of lean pork pieces to keep the fat content reasonable.
  • You can use regular light soy sauce instead of the low sodium version. I prefer the low sodium soy sauce as I’m quite conscious of my family’s salt intake. It also does not take anything away from the authenticity of the flavour.
  • Traditionally whole black peppercorns are used in this dish. Personally, I’m not keen on the crunch and intense pepperiness this causes every few mouthfuls. Hence I use freshly milled cracked black pepper instead.
  • Serve with steamed basmati rice, steamed vegetables or salad.

Homemade Pizza

Saturday is pizza day in my household. Nothing beats freshly made pizza straight from the oven. With a crisp thin crust, tangy tomato sauce and stringy mozzarella, here’s pizza recipe to rival your favourite restaurant. Trust me, after this you’ll never want supermarket pizza again.

This recipe is simple, but requires a bit of forward planning in terms of leavening the dough. I normally make the dough in the morning and leave it to rise for at least two hours. The longer you leave it the bubblier and lighter the base will be. The sauce in this recipe is enough to cover 4 pizza bases, but I normally freeze half of it in a plastic food storage container, for the next pizza day. I simply take it out of the freezer and place it in the fridge the night before to defrost.

For a more authentic restaurant style pizza dust the base of the baking tray with a thin layer of semolina. This gives a base an extra crunch and also stops it from sticking to the tray. If you don’t have semolina, you can just dust the tray lightly with bread flour.

When it comes to forming the base never use a rolling pin as this removes that lovely bubbliness that forms due to the yeast which is what makes that nice light base. Instead, use your hands to gently stretch the dough out. Once the base starts to thin you can place it on the floured/semolina sprinkled baking tray and continue to stretch the edges out.


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Homemade Pizza Recipe


Serves: 4

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Leavening Time: 2-5 hours

Cooking Time: 32-35 minutes

INGREDIENTS

Pizza base (makes 2 pizza bases roughly 30cm in diameter):

  • 300 g strong bread flour
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus extra 1 tsp for oiling the bowl)
  • 180 ml water (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp course semolina

Pizza sauce (enough sauce to cover 4 pizza bases):

  • 1 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Topping (enough for two pizza bases):

  • 250 g grated mozzarella cheese
  • your choice of toppings (see notes below for my family favourites)
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • cracked black pepper

METHOD

  1. To make the bases, start by placing the flour in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Make a well in the flour and add the yeast and the salt, followed by the olive oil.
  3. Slowly pour in the water, whilst mixing with one hand. A firm dough should be formed which leaves your fingers and the sides of the bowl clean-ish, but it should have a slight tackiness to it. If you feel the dough is too dry then add a little more water. Likewise if the dough is too sticky add a little more flour.
  4. Knead the dough for around 2 minutes.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl and pour in around half a tsp of olive oil. Use a pastry brush to spread the oil so that the bowl is nicely oiled. Don’t worry if there are little remnants of dough left on the bowl, just oil over these.
  6.  Place the dough back in the bowl. Pour a tad more oil on top of the dough, and spread with the brush.
  7. Cover the bowl with cling film and then a tea towel and leave the dough to rise in a warm location for 2-5 hours.
  8. In the meantime make the pizza sauce. Heat one tablespoon of light olive oil in a deep frying pan. Finely chop the onion and fry in the oil for 5 minutes until the onions are soft. Crush the garlic and add it to the pan. Continue to fry for another 2 minutes.
  9. Stir in the chopped tomatoes.
  10. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.
  11. Pour the tomato sauce back into the pan and add the basil, salt and black pepper.
  12. Simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes.
  13.  Around 20-30 minutes before you are ready to cook the pizza preheat your oven to 220°C fan or 240°C conventional.
  14. Prepare two baking sheets by lightly sprinkling course semolina on both of them.
  15. Once the dough has risen remove the towel and cling film. Use a sharp kitchen knife to cut the dough in half.
  16. Remove one half of the dough from the bowl and, starting from a rough ball shape, stretch the dough with both hands. You can rotate the dough and use gravity to help you. The base should be thinnest at the centre and thicker at the edges to form a nice crust.
  17.  Place the base onto the baking sheet. You can continue to stretch the dough out on the baking sheet if the centre of the base has become too thin and delicate.
  18. Take a quarter of the sauce and spread it on the base using the back of a spoon.
  19. Sprinkle half the mozzarella on the base.
  20. Spread your pizza toppings over the mozzarella.
  21. Drizzle the pizza with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with cracked black pepper.
  22. Place the tray on the top shelf of the oven for 12-15 minutes.
  23. Repeat steps 16 to 22 for the remaining half of the dough.

NOTES

  • Preheating the oven for at least 20 minutes should ensure that the oven is hot enough to produce a crispy base.
  • Sprinkling the baking tray with semolina will stop the pizza base from sticking without leaving a floury taste.
  • You can freeze the remaining sauce for the next time you make pizza. Simply defrost in the fridge overnight. Or, you could stir the sauce to cooked pasta and add a sprinkling of cheese for another simple mid week meal.
  • My family’s favourite pizza toppings:
    • thick cut ham (especially from the deli counter)
    • pepperoni
    • tuna, red onion, olives and sweetcorn
    • sweet pepper and fresh cherry tomatoes
    • sliced smoked pork sausage
  • If you love spice then try adding a sprinkling of chilli flakes after taking the pizza out of the oven.