Meatballs with Harissa, Sweet Paprika, and Cherries…

This was just tossed together – nothing weighed or measured except if it came in packs. This, I have to say, is how I prefer to cook and how I get the best results – trusting my instincts.

Obviously, then, measurements given here – again, except when in packs – should be taken as a guide, a place to start.

Makes 3 litres in my Spoonie-friendly casserole.

Ingredients:-

2 packs Sainsbury’s Toulouse-inspired sausages (makes 18 meatballs)

500g pack Aunt Bessie’s Carrot and Swede Mash (defrosted) I much prefer to prep my own veg, but on a bad day these are an excellent substitute

180g pack Sainsbury’s Echalion shallots, coarsely chopped

100g pack Pearls of Samarkand Cherry Mix

35g clarified butter (or ordinary, if you must)

a good splash of olive oil (more if needed)

2 level tablespoons Sweet Paprika

1 generous tablespoon my own Harissa

1 rounded tablespoon dried oregano

20g dried Ceps/Porcini, soaked and chopped, soaking liquid reserved

3 tablespoons Knorr Touch of Taste Chicken

2 tablespoons Ditto – Beef

1 Kallo Organic veg stock cube

¼ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon celery salt

1 scant teaspoon garlic granules

1 tablespoon HP Sauce

Maldon Sea Salt and Schwartz fine black pepper to taste

***

Method:-

First, make the meatballs, 3 per sausage is a good size. You’ll find that, using sausages, no matter how much effort you put into rolling the things, they will revert to their original shape – don’t worry about it. If you really must have them spherical – they won’t taste any better! – then run them through a mincer first, after skinning them, using a very coarse plate. This will break down the structure without mincing the meat further.

The good thing about Toulouse-style sausages is that they can be used as is – no need to add additional flavourings to the meat, which makes life easier.

So, with a sharp knife, slit the skins lengthways and peel off. Divide each sausage into three roughly equal parts and roll into balls.  I’ve been doing this since I was a kid, so I’m a bit blasé about knives and lay the sausage on my hand to slit the skin, but if you’re nervous around them, and a lot of people are, lay the sausages on the chopping board to slit them.

Note: If you’re a Nigel Slater fan, you’ll know he always says to squeeze the sausage meat from the skins. Do that and you’ll have a mess of ruptured sausages and torn skins. My way is much better and the sausage comes out of the skin whole.

When you’ve done them all, deep-fry them in two batches (or more, depending on your fryer), just for a few minutes until lightly browned. No fryer? Use a frying pan. You don’t want them cooked through, just enough to set them so they don’t fall to pieces in the sauce.

Put them on kitchen paper to drain.

Melt the butter with the oil and sweat off the shallots (if you can’t get Echalion shallots, the banana-shaped ones – ordinary ones are too small and fiddly – use cooking onions).

When they’re soft, stir in the paprika and Harissa, adding a little more oil if needed, and cook off for a few minutes.

Put everything else in the pot.

Soak the dried ceps in hot water for 10 minutes, then tip into a sieve over a glass or clear plastic jug to drain. Press with the back of a tablespoon to extract as much liquid as possible – it’s all flavour – then dump on the chopping board, chop roughly and add to the pot. Now pour the liquid in the clear jug SLOWLY into the pot, keeping an eye open for the grit at the bottom. Don’t let it get into the pot. There’ll only be a little grit so you won’t lose much of the soaking liquid.

Add enough hot water to cover, stir well, and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and leave alone for a hour.

It might well be cooked sooner (without my usual is-it-cooked-yet bellwether – sliced carrots – it’s hard to tell), but you’ve a mixed bag of ingredients here so giving them a little longer than is absolutely necessary is a good idea. It allows the sausage meat and the dehydrated fruit to absorb liquid from the sauce, improving their texture and taste, and thickening the sauce too. And both will give their own flavours back to the sauce – everybody wins.

So, after an hour, sacrifice a meatball and cut it in half – there should be no trace of pink if it’s done. Give it another half-hour if there is.

When it’s ready, remove from the heat and allow to cool a little before tasting to check the seasoning. Adjust as needed, and allow to fully cool before stashing it in the fridge for the flavours to snuggle up and do their thing in the cold and dark – you’ll thank them for it.

Reheat gently the next day and serve however you think fit. I’ll be portioning mine for the freezer.

NB: I’ve assumed you’ll be using a conventional cooker hob. If, like me, you have an induction hob, it will take longer – quite a bit longer but as these are economical in use, it doesn’t matter. The beauty of an induction hob is that, like a slow cooker, and for the same reason, it needs almost no attention from me while in use – very spoonie friendly.

Unless otherwise noted, herbs and spices are Schwartz, as always. Those linked to are what I use. Schwartz are fine instead, supermarket o-b, not so much.

And because this is so easy, I’m rating it just 2 Spoonie spoons (use pre-prepped onions to make it even easier).

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