Nigella Lawson's Black Pudding Meatballs

As seen on her BBC2 series, Cook, Eat, Repeat, Nigella's black pudding meatballs offer a rich and intense twist on the classic meatball.

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Introduction

I’m not sure that these beauties, bobbing about in their cheerfully red tomato sauce, count as brown food exactly, but I decided they belonged here since they are probably going to be fully appreciated only by true brown-food lovers. Even unapologetic meat eaters can be disgusted by the dark mysteries of blood. And while it’s not entirely rational, our emotional responses so rarely are. Besides, I make no attempt now to convince anyone about these: I love them too much to waste making them for people who fail to appreciate them, no matter how brave they feel for trying.

And cooking is by no means always altruistic. The quantities below make for a big old batch of black pudding meatballs, simply because they are one of my absolute favourite things to eat, an instant sparker of joy; I honestly feel so much better about life knowing there’s always a container or three of them in the freezer. I thrill at their deep gloriousness every time I eat them.

It’s up to you what you eat them with but I must tell you that the Brown Butter Colcannon in Cook, Eat, Repeat is sensational with them. But if I’m eating alone, I like them best with good bread and butter. Broadly speaking, black pudding comes in either a nubbly, crumbly texture or a smooth, moussy texture. I tend to favour the latter for these, but use either happily.

Serves 4–6 (or 1 person 4–6 times)

Ingredients

For the tomato sauce:
400ml cold water
2 onions (approx. 300g)
45g beef dripping or 3 x 15ml tbsp olive oil
2 fat cloves of garlic
3 x 15ml tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp dried thyme
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 x 15ml tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (gluten-free if necessary)
2 tsp sea salt flakes (or 1 tsp fine sea salt)
For the meatballs:
500g minced beef (not low fat)
250g black pudding (gluten-free if necessary)
2 fat cloves of garlic
3 x 15ml tbsp finely chopped parsley, plus more to serve
2 x 15ml tbsp finely chopped chives, plus more to serve
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp sea salt flakes (or 1 tsp fine sea salt)
a very good grinding of pepper
¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
2 x 15ml tbsp porridge oats (not jumbo, gluten-free if necessary)
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Instructions

1. Take the minced beef and black pudding out of the fridge so they lose their chill while you get on with the sauce. Pour 400ml of cold water into a measuring jug and put it by the stove in readiness.

2. To make the sauce, peel and roughly chop the onions. Melt your dripping or warm the oil in a large heavy-based casserole – I use one of 26cm diameter – then add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring every now and then, for about 15 minutes, or until beginning to soften and get golden in parts. If you want to do this for longer on low heat, do, after you’ve given them a 5-minute start on medium.

3. While the onions are cooking, peel the garlic and finely chop 3 tablespoons’ worth of parsley. When the onions are ready, stir in the dried thyme and chopped parsley, and mince or grate in the garlic. Add the tomatoes, swilling out the empty tins with the water in your jug before pouring it into the pan.

4. Stir in the tomato purée, Worcestershire sauce and salt and then turn up the heat to bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat a little and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, make the meatballs. Loosen the mince with your fingers as you drop it into a large bowl. Add the black pudding, crumbling it in by hand as well.

6. Peel the garlic cloves, and mince or grate them into the bowl. Now finely chop another 3 tablespoons worth of parsley and 2 tablespoons of chives and transfer both to the bowl.

7. Add the dried thyme, salt, pepper and chilli flakes. Then sprinkle over the oats and crack in the eggs. Mix this all together with your hands, making sure it’s evenly incorporated.

8. Get out a large baking sheet or a very large chopping board. Then tear off walnut-sized lumps of the mixture and roll them between your palms to make meatballs, placing them on the baking sheet or board as you go. You should end up making about 40.

9. Drop the meatballs into the sauce in concentric circles, easing them in gently. Try to get the meatballs covered by the sauce and then bring to a bubble. At which point, clamp on the lid, turn the heat down a bit, and let it simmer robustly for 15 minutes.

10. Take off the lid and give the pan a very gentle stir, then leave without a lid for another 15 minutes, simmering a little less robustly now, by which time the meatballs should be cooked through, and the sauce divinely intense.

11. Check the sauce for seasoning, then leave off the heat for 5–10 minutes. While you wait, chop some chives (and parsley if wished) to sprinkle over. Ladle into bowls and eat joyfully with bread and butter or a buttery bowl of colcannon.

Make Ahead – Prepare sauce up to 3 days ahead, cover and refrigerate or freeze as below. Form meatballs up to 1 day ahead using mince and black pudding straight from fridge. Refrigerate on baking sheets, covered loosely with food wrap. Remove from fridge 1 hour before cooking. Reheat sauce in large saucepan until just boiling, reduce to a simmer and add meatballs.

Store – Refrigerate leftovers, covered, for up to 3 days. Reheat gently in saucepan until piping hot.

Freeze – Freeze leftover cooked meatballs in sauce in airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge and reheat as above. Freeze sauce only in airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge.

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