This was a dish I put together when I was Winter-weather-craving something satisfying, but not too heavy – for this mood I find Mexican food really ticks the boxes – a big taste hit combined with fresh, punchy flavours. Meatballs in chipotle sauce is a popular Mexican dish, and is usually served more like a stew with rice. Here however I decided to combine the meatballs with homemade pink pickled onions, tomatillo salsa and sour cream in some corn tortilla wraps. I also stuffed the meatballs with little cubes of salty Manchego cheese. The result was fantastic. It really is very easy to put together, and the tangy crunch of the pickled onions counters the rich savoury depth of the meatballs, while the sour cream smooths out some of the kick from the chipotle sauce and rounds it off. It went down very well with everyone at home too – to quote my sister Liz “You know when you just don’t want a meal to end? I just want to keep eating this!” – probably one of the best things a cook can hear.
For the meatballs:
750g minced beef
1 garlic clove, mashed
1 egg, beaten
1 slice white bread, torn into pieces
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
Small cubes of cheese (I used the Spanish hard cheese, Manchego)
Generous grinding of both black pepper and sea salt
For the chipotle sauce:
2 dessert spoons of chipotle sauce – I use La Morena tinned sauce, a product from a Mexican company
1 garlic clove
For the pink pickled onions:
1 red onion, halved and finely sliced
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
3 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp sea salt
Juice from 1 lime
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
For the sour cream:
200ml double cream
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
The tomatillo salsa is a jar of stuff from Wahaca I like to have in my fridge; I love the tanginess – but I don’t think my hilltop in West Wales will be growing me tomatillos any time soon to make my own!
For the meatballs add the milk and torn up bread to a large bowl and mash together roughly. Add all the other ingredients (except for the cheese cubes) and mix together thoroughly – get in there with your hands.
Once all the ingredients are well incorporated, begin rolling small portions of the mixture into meatballs about 1 1/2 inches across. I ended up with 28 meatballs. Then push the cubes of cheese into the centre of your meatball and squeeze and reroll it in your hands to seal it into a ball.
To make the sauce simply blitz the chipotle sauce, tomatoes and garlic together in a food processor until smooth. Add the sauce to a large frying pan on a medium heat and get it bubbling nicely before adding your meatballs. Simmer away for about 15 minutes, turning the meatballs over once, until they feel firm when you prod them. I like the sauce cooked down enough so that it clings to the meatballs quite thickly. Add a good handful of chopped fresh coriander.
For the sour cream simply whisk the lemon juice through the cream – it should thicken up slightly.
For the pink pickled onions, bring a small pan of water to the boil, turn off the heat and submerge the onions in the hot water for 15 seconds. Drain and put to one side. Add the remaining ingredients for the pickled onions to the pan, and heat for a minute or two until the sugar and salt has dissolved.
Add the onions to a small jar, pressing down with a spoon, then pour over the pickling liquid. Top up with enough hot water to cover the onions and allow to marinate for 30 mins before using. Once cooled, the remaining onions will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks and the flavour will develop further.
Add your meatballs to the wraps, add your toppings and enjoy with a good cold beer.