Monday, June 16, 2014

In search of excellence......

There is something about being able to make a dish from "scratch"- where no part of the process is outsourced/store bought. In days when Grandma/Mama cooked that was the only way. But today you do have plenty of options(take away, ready to cook, ready to eat) and sometimes all you need to do is open multiple packs, assemble and you are done. You can still personalize the dish by adding some garnish or that extra dollop of cream or the grated cheese that the dish did not call for. Works for many with almost as good if not better results. You still have the satisfaction of having made it at home in your own kitchen.

However when you do cook a dish with just the basic ingredients there is a different kind of high, you ' stay lifted longer'. To me it cues a kind of mastery over the dish, " Yes, I have nailed it". It also allows you to customize the dish- no currants if the family does not like them in meat balls, sugar/spice/salt are all to taste( your family's taste) and of course it is fresher and you stake your claim on the entire dish.

But sometimes a dish can look so elaborate that I feel intimated. It seems simpler to substitute with the ready to cook/eat version. Three years back I had cooked this very dish with store bought  Meat Balls . If you were to read my post you would realize that I was petrified of frying the meat balls( or for that matter cutlets and chops too)- always feared that they would come apart as I was frying them( comes from being clumsy I guess). But in these three years and many new dishes later I am bold and ready for the challenge. I tell myself if I don't get it this time there will always be a next time. I am glad I braved it and with some excellent results. And of course the accolades(now come on I deserve them don't I - it is almost like that giant leap I took when I swam for the first time to the deep end of the pool)

Spaghetti with meat balls 


For the meat balls
Mutton mince: 500 grams
Onions: 2/3 finely chopped( as finely as you can)
Garlic: 4/5 pods, minced
Bread: 4/5 slices( should make about 1.5 cups when cubed)
Milk: 1/4th cup
Thyme: 1 tsp
Salt: to taste( there I go)
Pepper: to taste( yet again)
Eggs: 1/2
Olive oil: 1 tbsp to be added to mince mix
Oil for frying: 5 tbsps

For the tomato sauce
Tomato: 8/10 medium sized ones
Salt to taste
Sugar: 1/2 tsp
Garlic: 2/3 pods minced
Italian seasoning(Oregano): 1 tsp
Red Chilli flakes: 1 tsp (add some more if you would like it spicier)

For the Spaghetti
Spaghetti: 200 grams
Olive oil: 1 tbsp.

Some finely chopped coriander for the garnish


This looks like a really elaborate recipe with a long list of ingredients but once you start to work you realize that it gets done in quick and easy steps. Boil the pasta- set aside, then tackle the meatballs and alongside the sauce. And one final step of putting it together and then plating it

  • Bring to boil about 12/14 cups of water to which 1 tbsp of olive oil and some salt has been added. Add the pasta and let it cook al dente(or a little kacha). Drain out the water(keep about a cup of the starchy water to add to the sauce), spread the pasta out on a plate and add about a tsp of olive oil to prevent it from drying/sticking. If you think this was the easiest step wait for the day your pasta gets overcooked- can ruin this dish.
  • Next for the meat balls. Trim the sides of the bread and chop them into even sized cubes. Pour the milk over the bread and leave them to soften. This should take about 5/10 minutes. Next add all the mince ball ingredients and mix well to form a dough like consistency. Make little round balls out of them- you should get anywhere between 15/20 balls. Shallow fry the balls in oil turning them from time to time so that all sides get evenly browned. Do this in batches of 5/7 balls each time. Spread the meat balls on a paper towel to drain any excess oil.
  • And finally the sauce. Blanch and puree the tomatoes. Heat the oil and fry the garlic for a couple of minutes till it changes colour, add the pureed tomatoes, sugar, salt and seasoning and let it simmer for 10/15 minutes. Add the pasta water( this gives it a nice, glossy texture), the meat balls and further cook for about 10 minutes.
  • To plate: make a little pasta nest( you can do this very easily with a fork, twirl the pasta around the fork, lift and let it slide onto the plate), a generous helping of the sauce and meat ball over it, sprinkle some finely chopped coriander and maybe if you are feeling very indulgent some grated cheese. The contrast of colours makes this dish look really appetising.
  • Take slow, measured bites and savour each mouthful. Allow your tongue to play a wee bit longer with the succulent, juicy meatballs that have hungrily soaked up the sauce. 
  • And once done pat yourself on the back and say " I did it".
Leftover meat balls make good sandwich filling. They can also be added to traditional Indian curries and gravies. Perfect making meatballs and let your creativity take over.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!


1 comment:

  1. Admin, if not okay please remove!

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