Storm Ciara has blown through town and last blog's beef casserole was a welcome Winter warmer; designed to bolster us from the cold and wet weather. This week, the news from China has been grim to say the least and now we have Storm Dennis to contend with, but I just couldn't face another stew or any more talk of Coronavirus!
The days are getting longer and my desire for 'brown food' and slow cooked dishes is on the wane; I need something quick healthy and delicious to chase the rain-clouds away and that are vibrant enough to echo the promise of Spring just around the corner.
In solidarity with our Asian friends across the globe I've decided to bring you some healthy recipes with a Far Eastern feel. Full of the bright, zingy flavours we all love but with fewer calories as the recipes are baked rather than fried. In a bid to 'lighten the load' I have turned to the oft-neglected chicken or turkey mince. Many of you have tried it and have gone back to red meat; as white mince can be a little dry and needs lots of flavouring to make it taste anything other than 'bland'. I can guarantee these recipes are packed full of taste and will quickly become part of your repertoire whether calorie counting or not. I have also given you a separate orange sauce which is milder than the Teriyaki/ sweet soy glaze which is perfect for younger kids (and adults love it too).
All of the recipes can be bulked out with stir-fry vegetables or an Aisan type slaw - a mix of red and white cabbage, thinly shredded carrot, red peppers and spring onion and a handful of thawed edamame beans tossed together with a soy & sweet chili & ginger vinaigrette or a miso mayonnaise. Noodles including the zero carb almost no calorie Konjac ones that featured a few weeks ago would also work with most of the dishes as well as some plain boiled or steamed rice.
BAKED ASIAN MEATBALLS IN LETTUCE CUPS
2 fl oz/ quarter cup water
2 oz/50g/ quarter cup Panko breadcrumbs
1.5 lbs/700g minced chicken or turkey
2 oz/5og/ finely chopped spring onion (white and green parts)
1 Tablespoon minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 large egg, lightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper
1.5 teaspoons chili flakes
4 fl oz/10ml/ half cup Hoisin sauce
22 fl oz/ 5og/quarter cup blackberry jam
1 head Butterhead lettuce, leaves separated
Sesame seeds, for garnish
Sliced red chili for garnish - optional
Pre-heat the oven to 200c/gas 5-6 and spray a non stick mini muffin pan or baking sheet with spray oil. A mini muffin pan will give you 24 good size balls and helps the meatballs keep their shape, although not essential!
Soak the breadcrumbs in the water until it is absorbed and then add it to a large bowl containing the minced chicken or turkey, the garlic, ginger, spring onion, egg and soy sauce. Grind over some pepper and using your hands combine everything together. Your hands really are the best tool for this job and a pair of gloves are indispensable. In a bid to save the planet I either use washable, reusable rubber gloves or bare hands and then wash them well after forming the balls. DO NOT OVERMIX the meat as you will end up with tough, dry meatballs that will do double-duty as cricket balls! Mix until just blended, there will still be a few clumps of meat that are not mixed through which is absolutely fine. Gently shape into balls and roll them from your hand into the tray or onto a baking sheet.
Bake for around 15-20 minutes until cooked through. While the meatballs are cooking mix the Hoisin sauce and blackberry jam over a low to medium heat until combined and hot then pour over the meatballs to coat well. Wash and dry the lettuce and place one or two meatballs in each lettuce cup and garnish with the sesame seeds.
BAKED CHICKEN MEATBALLS WITH ORANGE GLAZE
METHOD Follow the recipe as above as far as cooking the meatballs; it really IS as easy as that and then coat in the following sauce: 10ml/ 1.5 teaspoons sesame oil
10ml/1.5 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 - 1/2 teaspoons crushed chilli flakes, or more to taste
6 fl oz/150ml/3/4 cup orange marmalade
2 fl oz/ 50ml/1/4 cup hoisin sauce
Heat the two oils together in a small pan; add the garlic and ginger and stir for a few seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and allow the marmalade to melt and combine. Season with the chilli flakes to taste. Coat the meatballs in the sauce and serve.
CHICKEN MEATBALLS MARINARA If you are craving an Italian flavour then change up the seasoning that is in the basic meatball mix. Instead of using spring onions, use a small grated white onion; add some fresh chopped parsley and oregano or thyme in place of the ginger and omit the soy sauce. Bake the meatballs in the same way as above. Drop the meatballs in some home made marinara sauce or for a really easy supper use your favourite jar of marinara.
5ml /1 teaspoon olive oil
I x small chopped onion
3 cloves garlic minced
2 x 400ml cans chopped or crushed tomatoes
I tube tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed chilli
100ml/ 4 fl oz water
Heat the oil in a large lidded heavy based pan over a medium heat and fry the onion gently until translucent. Add the garlic and stir through. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Cover with a lid and simmer on a low light for 2o minutes.
I have deliberately left the quantity of salt vague as some tomatoes need more than others. Start off with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt at the beginning of cooking and then taste and adjust at the end.