Merry Meatballs in a Bread Bowl

Merry Meatballs served in individual bread bowls

Meatballs get a festive twist with redcurrant, rosemary, brandy and cream. Perfect as picky finger food for a party served in one large, hollowed-out loaf of sourdough with toothpicks for spearing, or as a main course in individual crusty rolls, next to some form of vegetable.

The meatball portion of the recipe will make enough to feed 8 people as a main (about 64 small meatballs in total). If you have fewer mouths to feed, still make the batch of meatballs and freeze what you don’t use. You’ll be very glad you did.

If you decide to cook all the meatballs at once, you will need to brown the meatballs in batches to avoid crowding the pan, and you’ll need to double the sauce accordingly. The full quantity of meatballs will be enough to very generously fill a hollowed-out loaf.

Ingredients

For the meatballs (to feed 8 as a main, or up to 20 for a party, as part of a spread):

1 egg
750g mince beef (12% fat)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
Salt and pepper

For the sauce (to feed 4 as a main, doubling up for the full quantity):

Olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp brandy
2 tbsp flour
500ml beef stock
2 heaped tsp redcurrant jelly
1 heaped tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp double cream

To serve: Crusty sourdough rolls (or a whole sourdough loaf) and chopped fresh parsley

Method:

Crack the egg into a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Add the beef, minced garlic, breadcrumbs, rosemary and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Use clean hands to mix together, then form into small meatballs, about a heaped tsp each. I get about 64 meatballs from this quantity. Cover with cling film and refrigerate until needed.

Make ahead: At this stage, any extra meatballs can be placed on a baking tray, not touching each other, and frozen solid. Transfer to a freezer bag and keep frozen until needed. Thaw before cooking.

Just before cooking the meatballs, pop the bread into a low oven to warm up and get crisp.

To cook, place a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil, then add the meatballs and cook until browned.

To the browned meatballs, add the bay leaf and finely chopped red onion and cook for about five minutes, until softened. Add the brandy and allow it to cook away. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute, then slowly add the beef stock while stirring constantly, taking care not to break up the meatballs.

Add the redcurrant jelly and mustard, and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened and the meatballs are cooked through. Finally, swirl in the cream and give it a final stir.

To serve, cut the top off the rolls and hollow out a little, if necessary. Spoon in the meatballs and sauce, then sprinkle over plenty of chopped parsley. If serving as a main course, serve with a green vegetable, such as green beans or broccoli.

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