Good Food Blog
The mysterious power of meatballsPosted at 12:35PM, 22 May 2008 by Jenni Muir - Food writer
This week I had lunch with a friend - a professional cook newly married to an older gentleman - who confessed dinners were proving a bit of a challenge. The food that nourished her of an evening during her single years is not so appealing to her husband and she's amazed by the number of times she's had to turn out meat and two veg.
Now I don't know much about love, or indeed marriage. But I was pleased to be able to pass on the one thing I have learned about domestic bliss: meatballs. I could no sooner tell you why they work than explain the efficacy of reflexology. Anyone scientifically minded just has to accept that this is anecdotal evidence, but they do work.
Anyone scientifically minded just has to accept that this is anecdotal evidence, but meatballs do work.
Meatballs are more fun than spag bol, and more convenient than meatloaf, but they were never really part of my repertoire until I noticed that whenever we planned to eat at a certain restaurant my husband would go on and on about how he was looking forward to having the meatballs. So I started making them, and now they're the most requested supper at our house, and at my mother's, and increasingly at my friends' places.
It's not down to a particular recipe at all. The small fried meatballs I used to make are not the same as the big, fluffy baked ones I'm currently doing from Jill Dupleix's low fat book, but the resulting contentment seems to be the same.
It's not about the meat either. Sometimes it's beef, sometimes beef and pork, sometimes lamb. Turkey, chicken and tuna (Sicilian polpette - yum) work as well. A friend who refuses to buy mass-produced food has had great success with venison meatballs. Strangely too it doesn't seem to matter whether they're served with pasta, potatoes or rice.
The thing I like especially about meatballs is that it's easy to do a huge batch and freeze them - Susie Theodorou's book Can I Freeze It? gives several different meatball recipes to store, then new ideas for how to use them, from pasta bakes to noodle soups and an intriguing chicken meatball stir-fry with bok choy, shiitake and hoisin sauce. I normally do them fairly traditionally in tomato sauce, sometimes with a lot of other veg - squash, peppers, onions - added to it.
Two days after lunch with my friend an email arrived: 'Thank you so much, you were right, meatballs pronounced best meal ever, best meatballs ever, great compliments to the wife.' Turns out she'd cobbled them together from any mince-type stuff she could find in the freezer, including an old hamburger from the Co-op.
So there is no logic to it as far as I can see - got any theories? Scientists still can't explain why bumblebees can fly, so it may be some time before they turn their attention to the power of meatballs. But newlyweds should get onto them straight away.