Aubergine & Feta Balls
Although I'm not the kind of girl who would ever turn down a good steak (!) there are plenty of excellent reasons to eat meat-free on a regular basis.
Meatballs are very popular in our house, so this week, I decided to have a bash at making some 'meat-free balls' using aubergine (eggplant) which is one of my most favourite vegetables (and bizarrely is related to the banana. Who knew?!). I also added tinned butter beans for some extra protein, and to act as a breadcrumb substitute (so that these balls would also be gluten/grain free), and some feta cheese for a tangy, salty dimension. I also threw in the zest of a lemon at the last minute (after I took the pictures!) which really lifted the flavour.
The balls are baked in the oven, and then smothered in tomato passatta, torn mozzarella cheese and fresh oregano leaves before being baked again. For the kids, I left the balls plain (less messy to pick up and eat) and mixed the sauce in with some orzo pasta. For the adults I used my spiralizer to make carrot and courgette noodles….but they'd be great served with spaghetti, or rice, or whatever you like. In fact there's something slightly reminiscent of falafel about these 'meat-free-balls' and so I imagine they'd be delicious inside pitta with loads of hummus and salad. I think that's how we'll be having them next time…...
Aubergine & Feta 'Meat-free balls' Recipe
A food processor is essential for this recipe…..and makes it super quick and easy!
Makes: 25-30 small balls, which served my family of 2 adults and 3 toddlers for 2 meals!
Takes: 30 minutes to make, plus about 30mins baking time.
Storage: There's no reason why these wouldn't freeze well, but I haven't tried it yet! Otherwise, any leftovers will be fine in the fridge for 3 days.
1 tablespoon oil, plus some for rolling
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
2 medium aubergines (eggplants)400gram tin of butter beans, drained
zest of 1 lemon
2 handfuls fresh oregano leaves (or thyme leaves or basil leaves would be fine too!)
1 vegetable stock cube (I use Knorr stock pots)
150 grams feta cheese
100 grams mozarella cheese
300 grams tomato passatta
black pepper to taste (you shouldn't need any salt as the feta is quite salty)
Optional: Pasta, rice or noodles to serve
1. Peel the onion and garlic. Chop them roughly, and blitz in the food processor until they are finely chopped. Empty the onion and garlic into a large (ideally non-stick) saucepan along with a tablespoon of oil.
2. Wash and roughly chop the aubergines. Blitz them in the food processor until they are very finely chopped . Add the chopped aubergine to the saucepan.
[caption id="attachment_523" align="alignnone" width="225"] This little man was having a super-clingy day, so he was my designated 'helper' for this recipe as he refused to be more than 10cm away from me all day![/caption]
3. Fry the onion, garlic and aubergine with the stock cube for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the veg is very soft and reduced in volume by half.
4. Meanwhile, drain the butter beans, and put them in the food processor along with the oregano leaves and a few generous twists of black pepper. Blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs. (Note: there's no need to wash the food processor between chopping the veg and the beans!)
5. In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked aubergine, the butter bean/oregano mixture, the lemon zest, and the feta (crumbled by hand). Mix together with a spoon until it is well-combined, and then leave it for a few minutes until it is cool enough to handle.
6. Line a couple of baking trays with non-stick baking paper, and pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, take heaped tablespoonfuls, and use your hands to form them into balls. You should get 25-30 balls from this mixture. (Note: It's easier to roll if you rub a tiny bit of oil onto the palms of your hands to stop the mixture sticking to you.)
7. Bake the balls for 20 minutes until they are firm and holding their shape well. Transfer them into an oven proof dish or two (leave some out if you'd rather serve them plain. they are fully cooked and can be eaten just as they are at this stage).
8. Tip the tomato passatta over the balls, and scatter with torn mozzarella and some more oregano leaves. Return to the oven for 10-20 minutes, depending on whether you just want to heat it through, or create more of a melted/crispy topped 'bake'.
9. Serve with pasta, rice, veg noodles or whatever you like!
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