Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Rad-ical Wrap

Polpettini Involte in Radicchio con Patate & Piselli alla Menta
Radicchio-Wrapped Meatballs with Minty Potatoes & Peas

Here is a little idea for you- little meatballs made somewhat differently, with a yummy fennel-seed and Gorgonzola touch, baked in the oven, healthy and delicious as can be! Does that sound ok? I decided to pair them with some simple, mint-flavoured potatoes and peas to add a light, fresh contrast... and I do have to tell you that the combination was pretty terrific!

To all extents and purposes, the meatballs are steamed and the radicchio keeps the juices in... but a few minutes under the broiler at the end give them enough of a toasty finish that they don't end up tasting like they have been boiled- not that it would matter with what they are steamed-in... but read on and we will get to that little detail soon enough...

I made the little meatballs out of a quarter pound of half-beef, half-pork mince. I added one half of a small onion, finely chopped, a handful of finely chopped parsley, a teaspoonful of fennel seeds, a good grind of black pepper and instead of salt, my secret ingredient (which I have already mentioned-lol!), a good tablespoon of Gorgonzola cheese. 

These ingredients needed to be kneaded together gently and soon enough, the cheese and meat were well blended enough to bind all of the other bits and pieces of onion and herbs wonderfully... that was all there was to the meat! Easy so far, isn't it?

Next, the radicchio, from which I cut away the bottom third of it to remove the thicker, firmer stalks. A lot of recipes for making things like stuffed cabbage for example, would have you make a triangular cut into the leaves to remove the stalks, which are usually tough and make them hard to roll-up- especially if they are raw... but I like to do something else when I make them...

My preferred method is simply to take a spoon or spatula, lay it on the stalk-end of the leaf and apply enough pressure to crush it down and squash it enough for the stem to loose its firmness- which is only exactly the same thing that will happen when the leaves cook anyway- so why throw anything away?

I formed small meatballs, which I placed onto the leaf at the stalk-end, then folded the left and right side of the leaf closed, then rolled it up and set it to one side. I did not use anything to tie them up and of course they did unfold until I placed them into my little baking dish, but placing them in nice and tightly, side by side holds everything in place rather well :-)

 The meatballs obviously needed a little moisture to allow them to steam and cook nicely in the oven, so I added a shot glass each of Sambuca and of white wine... delicious with the fennel and the radicchio! I then poured boiling water over the little parcels- just a trickle, to get them nice and moist, added a light drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of pepper, covered my baking dish with aluminium foil and popped it into a pre-heated oven at 300°F for 20-25 minutes.

In the meantime, I boiled up a few potatoes for around 15 minutes, then added the peas to the same saucepan and let the potatoes cook for a further 5 minutes until they were nice and soft and the peas were finished at the same time... it's all about timing, multi-tasking... and getting things done!

After 25 minutes, I removed the foil from the meatballs and then let them cook for a further 10 minutes without. Right at the end, I turned on the broiler for 2-3 minutes to give the meatballs a nice, toasty finish... and then dinner was ready to be served!

I drained the potatoes and peas and dressed them up with a little olive oil, some finely chopped mint, salt, pepper and a hint of nutmeg... all as easy as can be!
And there you have it! A very modest meal, but delightful to look at, delicious to eat, inexpensive in its ingredients... and basically just a really nice idea! So I hope you give it a go sometime... I know I will be making this again for sure!

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