Not the best picture of this delicious fusion delight. But that's not going to stop me in my pursuit of bringing the best of culinary Europe together. This is light, puffy Italian meatballs, cooked in a delicious ratatouille with tender brown rice, all cooked in a delicious paella method. The result? Cohesion, a complete dish cooked in (nearly) ONE pan. Deliciousness.
For the Meatballs
500g 15% Fat Beef Mince
2 Thick Slices of Wholemeal Bread, Shredded
1 Red Onion, finely diced
2 Teaspoons Dried Thyme
2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
Flaked Sea Salt
Cracked Black Pepper
A little flour
For the Rest
1 Aubergine, diced
1 Courgette, diced
1 300g Mushrooms, quartered
1 Capsicum, finely sliced
400g Tinned Cherry Tomatoes
400g Tinned Crushed Tomatoes
1 Bunch of Thyme
1 Bunch of Basil (15-20 leaves)
2 Teaspoons of Dried Oregano
2 Teaspoons of Spanish Smoked Paprika
A few of threads of saffron
1 Cup of Beef Stock
2 Tablespoons of Tomato Paste
1 Cup of Long Grain Brown Rice
1 Red Onion, peeled and finely sliced
10 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed
White Wine Vinegar
In a small saucepan with a little olive oil gently fry the finely diced red onion with the thyme and oregano until tender. Set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl. Soak the shredded bread slices in about half a cup of whole milk. Once absorbed, add the mince, onion, tomato paste, eggs, and a generous grind of salt and pepper. Mix everything together really well. You'll end up with a nice wet mixture, that still holds it's shape. Form the meatballs into golf ball sized balls. Roll in a bit of flour, then transfer to a plate. Cover and refrigerate for an hour so they firm up.
In a very large frying on paella pan, pour a generous lug of olive oil. Quickly brown the meatballs on all sides in the frying pan, then set aside.
Leaving the fat in the pan and add the thyme, onion, capsicum and garlic. Fry on a medium heat until the onions are soft. Push the thyme twigs to the side, then add the aubergine, courgette and mushrooms. Saute these on a medium heat with an extra lug of olive oil and the dried oregano. Fry until the aubergine begins to soften, then pour in the rice.
Stir the rice through the vegetables, add the white wine vinegar. Once the rice begins to stick, add the beef stock and both types of tomatoes. Mix the rice through so it's consistent, then just cover the rice with water, and then the saffron strands and paprika. Get it simmering on a medium heat. Depending on the size of the pan etc, will determine on how long the rice needs. My rice took half an hour to get properly tender.
About halfway through the cooking of the rice, nestle the browned meatballs in the rice mixture. Around them, scatter the basil leaves (about 15 large leaves will do) Cook the meatballs all the way through in the mixture until the rice is tender, turning once. Season with salt and pepper really well to taste. Remove all the thyme twigs you can find, then serve.