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  • Aubergine & Quinoa Meatballs

    Whether you’re trying to cut back on meat-eating, a vegetarian who needs to cook for meat-eaters, or a dedicated veggie, chef Jo Pratt's latest cookbook 'The Flexible Vegetarian' is filled with inspiring recipe ideas - ideal for those meat-free days... 

    "These look and (almost) taste like traditional meatballs – they will surprise anyone who eats them when they realise they are completely meat free. I like to serve these with a homemade tomato pasta sauce, plenty of spaghetti and shavings of parmesan, but they also work as a canapé (skewered with a cocktail stick and with a tomato sauce to dip into), or wrapped in flatbread with salad and garlic mayo."

    Aubergine & Quinoa ‘Meatballs’ with Tomato Sauce

    I N G R E D I E N T S 

    100g/3½ oz quinoa
    Olive oil
    1 onion, finely chopped
    2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
    2 medium–large aubergines (approx. 650g/1 lb 7 oz), chopped into small dice (approx. 5mm/¼ inch)
    75g/2½ oz breadcrumbs
    50g/1¾ oz parmesan cheese or vegetarian equivalent, plus extra to serve
    50g/1¾ oz pitted black olives, finely chopped
    1 egg, lightly beaten
    4 tbsp chia seeds
    Small handful basil leaves
    Cooked spaghetti or other pasta, to serve
    Flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    For the sauce:
    2 x 400g/14 oz tins chopped tomatoes
    185ml/6 fl oz/¾ cup red wine
    2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 tsp balsamic vinegar
    1 tsp caster (superfine) sugar

    M E T H O D 

    To cook the quinoa, heat a medium saucepan over a high heat. Add the quinoa and shake around in the pan for about 30 seconds to start to toast it. Pour in 250ml/9 fl oz/1 cup of water and allow to boil for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low. Cover with a lid and leave to cook for 10 minutes. After this time, turn off the heat and leave for 5 minutes before taking off the lid and running a fork through the quinoa to separate the grains.

    Heat a glug of oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes until it is starting to soften but not colour. Add the garlic and aubergine. Sauté for about 10–12 minutes until the aubergine is completely softened. Remove from the heat, transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool for about 10 minutes.

    Put the aubergine and onion mixture, quinoa, breadcrumbs, parmesan, olives, egg, chia seeds and basil into a food processor.

    Season with salt and pepper, then pulse until the mixture holds together. Firmly shape into golf ball-sized balls, making approximately 30 in total. Sit on a parchment or cling film lined tray or plate and chill in the fridge for about 1 hour.

    To make the sauce, put all of the ingredients in a saucepan, season and bring to a simmer. Cook over a low heat for 20–30 minutes until the tomatoes have thickened (the time will depend on the brand of tomatoes as some are thicker than others to start with).

    Heat a glug of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the ‘meatballs’ and cook over a medium–high heat, gently turning/ rolling frequently, until lightly golden. You may need to do a couple of batches depending on the size of your pan.

    Gently stir in the tomato sauce, spoon over cooked spaghetti and scatter with parmesan.

    To be a flexible vegetarian...

    The aubergine can be swapped for 500g/1 lb 2 oz minced beef, chicken, pork or lamb. Sauté the onion and leave to cool before mixing with the raw mince and remaining meatball ingredients. Roll into balls and chill as above. Fry the meatballs as above on a medium heat for 12–15 minutes, turning as they become golden and cooked through. Pour over the sauce, heat through and serve with spaghetti.

    Recipe from 'The Flexible Vegetarian' by Jo Pratt.