This recipe arose because Alex Jackson of the restaurant Sardine cooked me tomatoes stuffed with a similar meatball mixture. I approximated the flavour in a stuffed tomato recipe at home after tasting his (one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, truly). Then when I wanted those flavours, but didn’t have suitable tomatoes for stuffing, I made this. I like it very much. The key point is to cook the meatballs and subsequent sauce very, very gently. I can’t emphasise this enough. Then they will be meltingly soft and the tomatoes won’t disintegrate. If you cook meatballs on a high eat they can become tough and dry. There’s only a very small quantity of chicken liver, but still, exclude it if offal isn’t your scene. My preferred accompaniments are described at the bottom. As usual, good bread and a green salad would also work well.
400g veal mince (I got it from Waitrose – or beef, or beef mixed with pork)
3 rashers smoked streaky/pancetta/lardons finely diced
50g finely chopped chicken liver, removing any membrane (I used organic ones from Waitrose – optional if you can’t find or don’t like)
2 tablespoons of dried breadcrumbs soaked in 3-4 tablespoons of milk
1/2 large onion, grated
a good grating of nutmeg
salt and pepper
a small bunch fresh tarragon and basil, roughly chopped (use half herbs in the meatball mix, half later).
butter and olive oil
6 medium-sized tomatoes, skinned and cut into segments (skin them by dropping in boiling water for 30 seconds, then remove and pierce skin, it should peel off easily)
1 glass of white wine
2 heaped tablespoons of full fat creme fraiche, or 4 of double cream
the other half of the herbs from the meatballs
How to make:
To make the meatballs: Mix everything together well, but gently. Shape them into smallish balls roughly golf ball size.
Cook the meatballs in a large frying pan very, very gently in a knob of butter and some olive oil, turning over once or twice in the butter as they lightly colour.
After 5 mins, add 6-8 skinned raw tomatoes cut into segments – nestle them amongst the meatballs, and add a glass of white wine and season with salt and pepper. Then cover with a disc of greaseproof paper, and very, very gently simmer for 10 further minutes.
Then, remove the meatballs to a plate, lower the heat, and add a hefty tablespoon or two of creme fraîche or cream and the rest of the fresh herbs, and whisk/stir in.
Simmer gently for a minute or two.
Replace the meatballs to the pan, and turn them in the sauce to coat.
Season finally, and add a small squeeze of lemon juice.
What to eat with them:
Potatoes roughly cut into largish chip shapes, roasted with olive oil and salt. This will take roughly 30 minutes. Put the potatoes into cook when you have made the meatballs but before you have cooked them.
Greens (spinach or chard etc) cooked in boiling salted water, stalks first for 2 minutes, then leaves for a further minute or so, then drained and served with a grind of pepper and a drizzle of olive oil or a little butter. Cook the greens whens ready to serve the meatballs, leaving them to rest for 5 minutes can’t hurt, and will probably improve their flavour.