My mum used to make me eat brussel sprouts. Not the tiny little gourmet buttered brussel sprouts with roasted chestnuts that you find on a lavish European Christmas table. Oh no – these were 1970s Australian versions – bitter, olivey-grey, egg-sized, boiled monsters of torture that would keep me sitting at the table twisting my fork idly over my plate until bedtime. One day I refused to eat them, and I got them back again for breakfast.
In my house, the monsters are not on the plate – they’re eating off it. Or, more truthfully, they are running around the living room avoiding what is on the plate. I have absolutely no control of my children. They eat what they want, when they want, in the manner they want. I have no idea how my mother managed to handle me – I was far from perfect myself.
So, with an utter lack of a firm parental hand or the juvenile respect for authority, the only way for me to get kids to eat healthy food is to disguise it in yummy form. I have hundreds of ways – they involve all manner of slicing, dicing, pureeing, grating, mixing, stuffing and coating. One of the favourites is the meatballs below. Bear in mind, these are for children (or grown men who won’t eat their veggies), so are appropriately bland. I also make them for us, but with plenty of extra spice.
- minced beef – about 200g
- 1 egg
- breadcrumbs – about 1/3 cup (preferably wholemeal)
- 1 large carrot, grated finely
- 1 zucchini (courgette), grated finely
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- a good squirt of BBQ sauce (or ketchup if your kids like it really bland)
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 can chopped tomato
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- tiny sprinkle ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- pinch salt
- preheat oven to 200ᵒC
- combine all ingredients for the meatballs (best if you use your hands to get it very smooth – if you are squeamish, use a fork), then shape into ping-pong sized balls. Place on an oiled oven tray and bake for about 25 minutes (until a rich brown colour), turning once.
- While the meat is cooking, in a small oiled pan, combine sauce ingredients and simmer very slowly for at least 5 minutes (I leave it on for the entire meat cooking time, but make sure it doesn’t burn – adding water if it gets too dry)
Serve with steamed rice and grated cheese over the top. Also makes a great hamburger patty base, which can be cooked on the barbecue or in a fry-pan. For us, I add extra cumin, ground coriander, garlic and chilli to the meatballs, and onion, fresh coriander and more chilli to the sauce (we love our chilli)