James Street South Cookery School: Meatballs and chilli con carne

Niall's meatballs – simple and comforting, especially as the colder months draw in

WITH so many cookery shows and chefs on our screens, phones and Facebook feeds, we are always wanting more excitement and variety in the kitchen. It always amazes me how easily we forget the dishes we grew up eating and which, in their own rights, are fantastic meals for groups, the kids or simply a midweek rescue mission from the freezer.

Minced beef is forever one of the most versatile meats in this regard and this week's recipes are two classic dishes that use mince. Both are very easy to do, excellent for freezing and timely as the weather turns a bit colder.


(Serves 4-5)

500g beef mince

1 onion, peeled and grated

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 egg, beaten

100g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 tblsp olive oil

For the sauce:

500g fresh plum tomatoes

50g butter

1 red onion, thinly sliced

2 large garlic cloves finely slice

2 tsp caster sugar

sea salt

freshly ground pepper

For this dish you want to take you beef out of the fridge and place in a bowl and knead with damp hands. This helps to bind the proteins in the meat for cooking. When soft and pliable, add in the grated onion, the parsley and the beaten egg. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.

Add the mushrooms to the mix and start to roll the mix into balls using the palms of your hands.

You want to seal off your meatballs before adding to the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a pan and once bubbling, add the meatballs and lightly brown, turning carefully. Remove from the heat once browned.

To make the sauce, blanche off the tomatoes and take the skin off. To do this, make a cross-shaped incision at the top of each one. Place in a bowl and cover with boiling hot water. Leave for a minute and one by one remove from the water and peel off the skins, and discard them, using a clean cloth if the tomatoes are too hot to handle. Chop the peeled tomatoes.

Place the butter in a pan and melt; add the chopped tomatoes, garlic and onion. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes until the tomatoes are soft. Stir in the sugar and season with salt and pepper.

Depending on how you like your sauce, you can blend using a stick blender or leave as is. Add the meatballs into the sauce and leave on a gentle heat with the lid on for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve straight from the pan.


(Serves 6)

2 tblsp olive oil

2 onions, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

500g lean minced beef

2 red chillis, deseeded and sliced

800g red kidney beans, (2 tins)

400g chopped tomatoes, (1 tin)

sea salt

2 tblsp water

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof dish (with a lid) on a medium heat on the hob.

Add the chopped onion and garlic and stir until soft. Add the mince and increase the heat until it is all browned. Add the chopped chilli and stir; reduce the heat.

Open the kidney beans and strain, add the beans only to the minced beef. Add the chopped tomatoes and season with the salt.

Reduce heat to a simmer, place the lid on and leave for 20 minutes to cook through. Add water if the dish is sticking to the bottom of the pot. When ready to serve, add in the chopped parsley.

For a change I love to serve this with cous cous rather than basmati rice. This dish really freezes well, so always make more.

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