Yesterday I stopped by the grocery store and it looked like pre-Christmas shopping all over again. Everyone must have run out of food at the same time, I joked to the cashier, and she said, I think that people must be stocking up for the snow. Snow, really? It was bitterly cold, but the sky was blue. But just to be on the safe side, I decided to get the ingredients for one of my favorite warming meals: meatball stew.
We are now in the middle of a month-long cold snap, and so are many other places. As much as we might long for healthier food after the holiday excesses, the weather calls for something rib-sticking. I think this recipe is a nice compromise, as it is full of vegetables and fairly low in fat, but still so savoury and filling.
This recipe has been in my family for ages, and I've already shared it in From the Desk of Bee Drunken back in October 2008, but as I make it every winter, I think it's time to dust it off again.
Make small (3/4 inch) meatballs out of the following:
1 1/2 lb/675 grams ground chuck (or good mince)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 ounces seasoned bread crumbs
Or, if you live in England, just buy two or three packages of Organic meatballs from Waitrose -- they are ideal.
Saute one clove of garlic in a small amount of olive oil. Remove garlic and brown the meatballs in the flavored oil.
Place the meatballs in a casserole dish with a lid (I use my Le Creuset) that is burner/oven proof.
Add the following:
16 oz/500 ml tomato sauce/passata
32 oz/1 liter water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
1-2 beef boullion cubes, or a couple of teaspoons of Marmite
Cover and cook on top of low heat for 30 minutes. Then place in an oven at 325F/165C for 30 minutes. After this two-part process, you can add the following vegetables:
4 medium potatoes, cubed
3 or 4 carrots, sliced
3 or 4 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1 large onion, roughly chopped
(As this is a stew, the vegetable amounts should be thought of as a rough guide. I tend to add more, rather than less.)
Cook in oven until vegetables are tender. Approximately 45 minutes should do it, but sometimes the potatoes will need a bit longer.
Serve with french bread or corn bread.
This stew can be made ahead, and like most stews, it is actually better the next day.
Even if, like me, your refrigerator is way too small to hold a Le Creuset and so you use "outside air conditioning" to keep it chilled overnight.
As you can see, the snow did indeed arrive.
And after my children play in it all morning, a bowl of warm-up meatball stew is going to taste so good!