Meatballs! Oh, meatballs. Is there a more wonderful food? More pleasing to shriek out loud whilst walking your child, more lovely to mix and roll, more delicious to eat? I usually make meatballs in sauce, like the good Italian I am, and forget how many other ways there are to eat meatballs. But when Katie reminded me the other day, I practically tripped over myself getting to the store to buy ground pork.
I mean, ground pork flavored with mint and chiles and garlic and scallions, rolled into little balls and then suspended in broth? Hello? Was there ever any chance that I would hear about this recipe and not make it? No, I tell you. NO. (They're like skinless wontons in soup! In fact, next time I might actually wrap them in wonton skins.)
The recipe comes from Nigel Slater's Tender, his book on growing and cooking with vegetables, and it makes me giggle to no end that the original title for this recipe is Chicken Broth with Pork and Kale.
Why, if you are given the opportunity to use the word meatball, would you ever shy away from using it? Doesn't Nigel know MEATBALL! is how you sell a recipe? Chicken Broth with Pork and Kale, I mean, I wouldn't even bother reading the recipe after seeing that title. I'd just flip on by. Tell me you wouldn't. GO AHEAD. (Yeesh! I'm worked up or something!)
Anyway, I am herewith rebranding the recipe as Nigel Slater's Pork Meatballs in Broth, because meatballs deserve all the love and attention they command, every last drop of it. Loud and proud, meatballs, loud and proud.
Now, onto the recipe. It is so easy a child could do it. You simply flavor ground pork with chiles and herbs and garlic and scallions, then roll it into little balls. Emphasis on little! You want these to be one-bite meatballs, maximum two-bite. Then you lower them into simmering broth for a few minutes. The original recipe has you fry them first, but we all know how I feel about that. The meatballs taste just as delicious and you get to skip a whole, messy, pan-dirtying step. Boom!
Of course it'd be best if you made this with your own, lovingly prepared chicken broth. Of course! Of course. However, I am here to tell you that I made these with Better Than Bouillon vegetable stock (I should be getting stock options in the company at this point, shouldn't I?) (and yes, I know that it is most definitely not Whole30-approved, but life is full of tragic decisions and this was never going to be one of them) and it was sublime. Seriously! Totally delectable.
Finally, the original recipe tells you to blanch kale leaves and then float them in the broth (which is what Katie did, if you'd like photographic support). But kale has cleared out of stores here (and thank goodness is all I can say to that), so instead I used a very firm, very fresh zucchini sliced paper-thin and just threw the slices in at the very end of the cooking time. Why the zucchini? Because it's all I had in terms of green vegetables. Honest! No other reason. I imagine that a few spinach leaves would be nice here, too.
Meatballs! The best.
Nigel Slater's Pork Meatballs in Broth
Serves 3 or 4
500 grams (1 pound) ground pork
2 small hot chiles
2 cloves garlic
6 sprigs mint
6 springs cilantro or parsley
1.5 liters (6 cups) vegetable or chicken broth
1 fresh, firm zucchini, sliced paper-thin
1. Put the pork in a mixing bowl. Finely chop the chiles and add them with their seeds to the pork. Slice the scallions, discarding the roots and the very darkest tips of the leaves. Peel and mince the garlic, and add with the scallions to the pork. Pull the parsley or cilantro and mint leaves from their stems and chop coarsely, then add them to the pork with the salt. Mix everything thoroughly with your hands and form into about sixteen balls, about 1 1/4 inches in diameter.
2. Bring the stock to a boil in and season with salt and pepper. Lower in the pork balls and then decrease the heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes, until they are cooked through. Add the zucchini slices to the soup and serve one or two minutes later.