So I got a new apartment!
Ok, not really. I just moved from a regular hotel room to a suite in Jo’burg, where I’ve been working the past month or so. I’m ecstatic because this means I have my own kitchen now! And this kitchen is like, twice the size of mine in Lagos. I wish I could take it back with me 😥
To inaugurate my new space I decided to try making something challenging, a dish that really relies on a meaty ingredient. My first thought was sausage rolls, but the place I ordered the ingredients from is in Capetown so they’ll only arrive next week. Cue Plan B: meatballs.
My veggie balls are made with mung beans and lentils, but you should be able to use any combination of hard beans and soft beans/lentils. The recipe also uses flour so they hold up really well in a sauce. I used wheat flour, which of course is a highly processed food to avoid when eating healthy, so do sub wheat flour with beans or plantain flour if you have it. I don’t have those here so I haven’t tried, but they should work just as well.
The veggie ‘meat’balls are spicy and chewy, just like actual meatballs. And when you cook them in a sauce they keep their shape but become nice and tender inside. The great thing is you can make a lot of them and freeze to use in sauces and stews. If you’re trying to eat healthier but you’re used to having something ‘meaty’ to look forward to at the end of your meal, give this recipe a try. 🙂
A note on the pasta sauce: Although the kitchen is stocked with utensils, pots and pans, I don’t have a blender here, so I wasn’t able to puree the tomatoes and peppers for the sauce. I had to make do with mincing them as small as I could. If you’re making this, just use my recipe for stew. As I work my way up to making completely oil-free meals, I’m trying to make food with less and less oil. I made the pasta sauce with just 1 tablespoon of olive oil – half the 2 tablespoons I would normally use. Small-small, we are getting there! 🙂
What you will need
*makes 24 balls, enough for about 6 servings
- 1 cup mung beans, soaked overnight
- 1 cup brown lentils, soaked overnight
- 4 large brown mushrooms
- 1 cup wholewheat flour, plus more for dusting (substitute with beans or plantain flour for gluten free)
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds/ground flaxseeds (if using gluten free flour, use 2 tablespoons)
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 atarodo (scotch bonnet pepper)
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- spices: 2 teaspoons curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, a pinch of red chilli powder, salt to taste
How to make it
Cook the mung beans and lentils in unsalted water in separate pots for 30 minutes, until the lentils become mushy. The mung beans should be crushable between your fingers but not mushy. Near the end of the cooking time, add a pinch of salt. The salt prevents the beans from soaking up water, so you must add it only after they have softened.
While the beans are cooking, mix 1 tablespoon soy sauce and a sprinkle of salt and red chilli powder with the mushrooms and leave to marinate for 20 minutes.
In a food processor, pulse the beans and lentils roughly; they should be broken up but should not form a smooth paste. I don’t have a processor here so I used a potato masher, it works fine too.
Mix chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water and leave to sit for a few minutes. In a large bowl, mix the mashed beans, onions, garlic, atarodo, mushroom mixture (plus the liquid), chia seed mixture, spices and the remaining soy sauce together. Gradually incorporate the flour and mix well until it’s no longer visible. The mixture should be very sticky but not runny. If it’s too dry and doesn’t stick together, adjust the consistency with water. Too wet, add a bit more flour.
Line a baking sheet with foil or baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
One tablespoon at a time, form the mixture into balls slightly smaller than ping-pong balls and arrange on the baking tray. You’ll need to dust your hands with flour as you do this to reduce stickiness.
Bake the balls for 20 minutes, then turn them over and bake the other side for another 20 minutes. Your ‘meat’ balls are ready! They should be crusty on the outside and slightly moist inside.
I cooked the balls in the pasta sauce from the beginning, to allow them steep in the water from the tomatoes and absorb some of that moisture and flavour. The balls go really well with pasta sauce, but they would be great in a curry or soup as well. I think I’ll use them next time I make edikang-ikong…