Rick Stein's Beef and Pork Meatballs in a Tomato and 'Piment' Sauce

Rick Stein's beef and pork meatballs in a 'Piment' sauce, as seen on his BBC2 series, Secret France, make for a rustic French-inspired dinner to feed a crowd.

Rick Stein’s Secret France
A culinary journey across France with Rick Stein
All of your favourite recipes from the BBC series
Secret French recipes alongside authentic classics

Introduction

Just as sometimes I feel that I visit too many markets in my films, I think I might also go to too many weird road stops off the beaten track, places that specialise in feeding truckers and tourists and that have a ramshackle shop overflowing with local produce. I was very much looking forward to having a plate of boles, Catalan meatballs, at a roadside shop-and-stop between Prades and Ille-sur-Têt. I expected sun-bleached plastic tables and chairs outside, the sort of place that people who follow my journeys might find disappointing when they see how scruffy it is. When I went there everything was as I had imagined, except they had stopped cooking for the season and there were no boles. This recipe came from a stall in Prades market where they were cooking boles in a huge paella pan and fabulous they were – beef and pork meatballs flavoured with cinnamon and piment d’Espelette in an exquisite tomato sauce with green olives, haricots and bacon, I thought there might be too much meat in the dish, but not at all.

Serves 4-6.
Prep time:

Ingredients

400g minced beef
400g minced pork
1 egg
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
small handful flatleaf parsley, chopped
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp piment d’Espelette (page 306 of Rick Stein's Secret France) or pimentón
plain flour
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and black pepper
For the sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
100g unsmoked lardons or cubes of cooked ham
1 tsp piment d’Espelette (page 306 of Rick Stein's Secret France) or pimentón
½ tsp ground cinnamon
6 tomatoes, hard cores removed, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
150g pitted green olives, drained
400g tin haricot beans, drained

Instructions

In a large bowl, mix the meat, egg, garlic, parsley, cinnamon, piment d’Espelette and 2 tablespoons of flour. Season with salt and pepper and blend well. Using your hands, shape the mixture into golfball-sized balls, adding another tablespoon of flour if the mixture feels too wet to form into balls. Roll the balls in flour to lightly cover. Heat the oil in a large, preferably shallow, flameproof casserole dish, and brown the meatballs all over. Set them aside.

For the sauce, heat the tablespoon of olive oil in the same casserole dish and fry the onion and the lardons or ham until the onions are softened. Add the piment d’Espelette and cinnamon and cook for a minute, then add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and 250ml of water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the olives, haricot beans and browned meatballs to the sauce, together with any juices they have released.

Cover the pan and cook over a low heat for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and simmer for 10–15 minutes. Check a couple of times during cooking and add a little more water if the sauce looks as if it is getting too thick. Serve as a tapas or as a lunch or supper dish with pilaf rice.

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