Up until a few years ago I would eat mince beef about 3 nights a week with a couple of take away pizzas/chinese/indians thrown in, and a token bit of fish or chicken. I always enjoyed to cook but made excuses as to why I never got round to it and excuses as to why I was eating crap pretty much 7 days a week. Now, my husband and I have completely changed our eating habits – we cook almost everything from scratch and have introduced so much more fruit and veg into our diet. And, I am really enjoying trying to cook fresh, nutritious food. And I don’t mean that we’ve become ‘clean eaters’ or veggie or vegan. We still have the naughty stuff too, some weeks much more than others, but we’re now throwing more balanced meals into the mix!
I love meat, and always will. But I do know it’s good to have a couple of meat free meals here and there. This recipe came from me thinking of new ways to use courgetti. I love puttanesca sauce (you will see an array of recipes for slutty pasta on the web, this is what they mean, puttanesca is whore in Italian) and thought it would be fab on courgetti and then I thought how well it would go with meatballs and it moved onto meat free meatballs! I’ve seen a couple of recipes for vegetarian ‘meatballs’ and so this is my take on it.
I don’t think you need a fancy pants spiralizer because they take up more room in my small kitchen, more likely to break and are harder to wash up! I use a simple hand held spiralizer like this one and love it.
This recipe makes 10 balls and serves two.
For the ‘meatballs’:
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1/2 onion, chopped
– 1 x aubergine, cubed
– 2 x garlic cloves, chopped
– 1/3 cup of green lentils, dried
– 1 tsp oregano
– 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
For the puttanesca sauce:
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 5 x anchovy fillets, chopped
– 4 x garlic cloves, thinly sliced
– 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
– 1 x tin of chopped tomatoes
– 1/3 cup of chopped black olives
– 1 tbsp cappers
– 2 x courgettes
Bring a pan of water to the boil, rinse the lentils under the tap and then add to the boiling water. Boil for 20 minutes.
Whilst your lentils are cooking, heat the oil over a medium to high heat and fry the aubergine, onion and a sprinkle of salt. You want to brown it, don’t let it burn. After about 5 minutes add the garlic. Then fry for a further 5 to 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it, you want it to brown all over and soften, but don’t let it catch and char. Then take off the heat and put to one side.
Once the lentils are done, drain them and let them cool for 10 minutes. Once cooled, I also put the lentils out on a plate and dab with kitchen roll to make sure you’ve taken as much moisture out as possible. Then, in a food processor blitz the lentils with the oregano and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Do this for a minute or two – you still want it to be on the coarse side.
Then add in the cayenne, aubergine, onion and garlic and give it another blitz for 2 – 3 minutes. You still want it on the coarse side of smooth without being lumpy, but don’t over blitz otherwise it becomes very wet.
Make your 10 balls and put onto a tray lined with kitchen roll and leave in fridge for half an hour (or longer if you have time) this will firm them up.
Once the balls have had their fridge time, you can get started on the sauce. In a saucepan heat the oil over a medium heat, then add the anchovies and work them into the oil, it’s like they melt into the oil. Once broken down, add the garlic and chilli and fry for a few minutes. At this point add in the olives and cappers and give it a good stir, then add the tin of tomatoes and cook on a low heat – give it a stir now and then.
Get your courgettes and spiralise them to create your courgetti. I use this spiralizer. It’s affordable, small and sturdy – a great purchase! If you don’t have one you can also use a grater on it’s side to create noodle-like ribbons of courgette. Leave this to one side whilst you fry your meatballs.
In a large frying pan, heat a glug of oil on a medium to high heat, and start to fry your meatballs. I think I have OCD about this, but I will go around and turn each ball individually so all sides are evenly browned! Might seem faffy but you get a good outcome! Fry them for about 8 minutes – I like them to go a nice dark brown. Once done remove from the pan and set aside. Turn the pan up high and dry-fry your courgetti for just a minute. I don’t like it cold so I do this to warm them through, not to cook them. Then mix with your sauce in the pan to coat all the courgetti. Split between two bowls and then top with your meatballs.
I really like this as a meat-free option to meatballs. And the puttanesca goes so well with the courgetti. The meatballs keep well so if I’m cooking for myself the next day I’ll have them in cos lettuce and make a fresh tomato salsa, like little wraps! It seems I quite like my courgetti, I think it’s a great one to throw in when you want a lighter meal. What are your favourite ways to top courgetti?