A few weeks ago, I made one of my favorite meatball recipes. It sent me on the search for more wonderful meatball recipes outside of the common flavor combinations with which I was already familiar. The first recipe I came across in my search was one by British food writer and cookbook author Ruby Tandoh for Meatballs with Sticky Blackberry-Anise Sauce from her most recent cookbook, Flavour. The meatballs have a great flavor profile for combining with winter’s berries to make a slightly thick sauce, perfect for mixing with other roasted root vegetables which may be on your plate — or mopping up with a nice, thick slice of bread. —Kristina
Meatballs with Sticky Blackberry-Anise Sauce
Makes 32, serving 4
You need something fruity to balance the comforting heft of these meatballs. Usually it’d be a redcurrant or lingonberry sauce, but I’ve opted for something a little darker: an inky blackberry sauce, spiked with anise for a gentle licorice sweetness. You can make a sauce with a little beef stock and double cream, too, if you really want to go all out, but I don’t think these meatballs need it. Glazed with dark blackberry and served with buttery mash, this is a comfort food dream without any overwhelming richness.
For the sauce:
— 2 cups (12 ounces / 350 g) blackberries
— 2 cups + 2 tablespoons (225 g) sugar
— 3 tablespoons (50 ml) water
— 3 star anise
— 1 dried bay leaf
— 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
For the meatballs:
— 1/2 pound (250 g) ground pork
— 1/2 pound (250 g) ground beef
— 50g white breadcrumbs
— 2 shallots or 1⁄2 onion, finely chopped
— 2 teaspoons dried thyme
— 1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg
— 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
— 1/3 cup (75 ml) milk
— Oil, for frying
First, prepare the blackberry sauce. Heat all the sauce ingredients in a small pan and simmer for 15 minutes, crushing the blackberries under the back of a spoon as it cooks. When the mixture is syrupy, strain out the blackberry seeds through a fine mesh sieve. Set the strained mixture back over the heat and simmer for 5–10 minutes, until sticky and thicker. Leave to cool and turn jammy, then add a little more water if the sauce is too sticky, or place back over the heat for a few minutes if it’s not quite thick enough. Set aside while you prepare the meatballs, re-warming it when the rest of the dish is ready.
Combine all the meatball ingredients except the oil in a large bowl, and work together using your hands.
Heat a little oil in a large frying pan. Shape the meatball mixture into 32 small balls and cook them over a high heat for 3 minutes, turning frequently. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for a further 10–12 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.
Serve with the blackberry sauce — you can toss this through the meatballs in the pan, with a splash of water, if you want to glaze them all over — and heaps of smooth mash.
About Ruby: Ruby Tandoh entered Great British Bake Off at the age of 20. She quickly impressed with her creative approach to ingredients and flavor taking precedence over decoration. Ruby subsequently wrote a weekly food column for the Guardian for two years, has written columns for British ELLE and has made documentaries for BBC Radio 4. Her first book, Crumb, was published in 2014. She spends her time in Southend-on-Sea cooking, eating and watching Take Me Out. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram.