Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Mini meatballs with polenta: Hungry to happy challenge

Cooking challenges are my favourite type of competitions. BritMums are running a Hungry to Happy Linky Challenge until 21st of June, which is "all about easy-to-prepare, versatile meals for kids that turn cheeky monkeys into satisfied angels in minutes."
When you had a busy day playing with your kids, gardening or running in the park, you come home and want to cook something that you can serve fast, without much hassle.

I have bought Richmond sausages in the past, but this was the first time we tried Richmond Mini Meatballs,
"bite-sized pork meatballs that are quick and easy to prepare as part of a hassle-free meal in just 8 minutes."
Everyone who applied got their voucher for a pack of free meatballs.

As my husband is Italian, I tend to cook a lot of Italian dishes. I can make my own meatballs (and in fact a couple of years ago my recipe for the meatballs has won me the first prize at Aldi's British Beef competition, you can read all about it in my old post My Photoshoot for Aldi).
Nothing can beat the taste of the homemade meatballs, but you do need time to make them properly.
What if you are all starving and want to serve something quickly? One of the solutions is to keep a pack of Richmond Mini Meatballs in the fridge.

I have tried one and decided that it does need a bit of jazzing up. These meatballs are child-friendly, so they do not have any strong flavours or spices in them. But of course, you can always add the flavours you fancy.
We tried the mini meatballs with spaghetti and polenta.
While spaghetti is very popular with the British, polenta is a neglected step-daughter, and that's totally undeserved. It is such a versatile product (I use it often in baking).

 Mini Meatballs in tomato sauce with polenta
1 pack of Richmond mini meatballs (4 servings)
3 big tomatoes
1 garlic clove
a handful of olives (I used the olives in olive oil and lemon zest dressing)
2 celery stalks
2 tbsp olive oil
polenta express (about 50g dry polenta per person)
fresh basil (a few leaves)
1tbsp tomato passata
salt, pepper
1tsp butter

Slice the celery stalks and tomatoes and add them in a big frying pan with the olive oil and chopped garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, add a bit of water to the pan. Add the tomato passata and season, stir in some chopped basil leaves and olives and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the meatballs and cook under the closed lid for 5-7 minutes.
In the meantime boil the water and pour it over the polenta. Pour the water steadily while whisking the polenta, it has to be quite thick. I use the polenta express which is ready in 5 minutes (have a look at the Italian brand Polenta Valsugana, available in Waitrose, for example).
You can actually make it quite thick, and once cooled down, cut into slices which you can grill or fry. Or make it the consistency of the mashed potato, on the soft side, without slicing.
Add the butter and stir well.
Serve the polenta with the mini meatballs and the sauce.
And how about making a funny face on your polenta circle to make it more appealing to your kids (cut the nose and eyebrows from carrots and use olives for eyes)?
All this won't take you more than 20 minutes altogether, that is including the chopping and cooking, or even less, if you make the polenta while the sauce is cooking with the meatballs.

Another variation:
Mini Meatballs with spaghetti
If you're not sure about polenta, a dish of spaghetti would definitely be an all round pleaser. Who can say No to a plate of spaghetti?
Cook the meatballs in the tomato sauce as above, and serve with spaghetti. Decorate with the basil leaves. Grate some parmesan on top (never-ever use the cheese dust that is sold as an already grated parmesan, it is truly an insult to the beautiful cheese).

This dish takes about 20 minutes to make, so it's another quick and easy meal option.

If you have any leftovers, why don't you make a funky sandwich for your tot for breakfast?

Toot Toot sandwich
2 slices of white bread
2 slices of cucumber
4 meatballs
2 toothpicks
Butter the slices of bread and put together. Cut out a shape of a car with a knife. With the toothpicks attach the "wheels" of meatballs on both sides. Cut out the crescent shapes fro cucumber and place above the wheels. Draw a window with a bit of tomato ketchup.
"This is a funny car, Mama", said Eddie. "Is it a car for Pontipines?" Well, why not (for those of you who don't watch the CBeeBies, these are small peg-dolls from In the Night Garden).
Don't forget to remove the toothpicks once your child starts eating.

This post is my entry to Happy to hungry linky challenge on BritMums sponsored by Richmond Mini Meatballs.


  1. What lovely and varied ideas. We used polenta at a cooking class I went to, but have to admit haven;'t tried it since. The car is too cute.

  2. Love the sndwich idea - love the blog's new look too, very swish :)

  3. Some great ideas and I don't think any child would pass up on that fun looking sandwich.

  4. Fab ideas! Commenting for myself and on behalf of BritMums and thanking you for taking part.