I noticed when I steamed a shoulder of lamb a few weeks ago that a lot of liquid collected in the base of the pan, mostly juices from the meat with a little rendered fat which presumably evaporate while cooking if it's in the oven. Upon tasting I found a light liquid with a rich flavour of lamb and the spices I had marinated it in. And it was good. Saved it to use as the base for a mutton curry.
I wondered if I could get the same result steaming meatballs so as to use the liquid as a sauce. I am looking to attain the delicacy of a lot of the asian food I've made in the steamer rather than the much more robust 'brit' food like the fabulous steamed leek pudding. I know we're talking pasta here, but it too has the potential for silky lightness.
I didn't add an awful lot to the mix as I wanted the true flavour of the meat, a pack of mince from Wild Beef I'd had in the freezer. I was hoping it would give up enough juice to be a simple sauce. Not one to use a knife with pasta I made little balls - it is important to be able to eat them in one go with a fork.
I had a decent sized courgette in the fridge as well as a quarter of savoy cabbage. It is true that steaming makes things taste most intensely of themselves so I made ribbons of the courgette and a fine shred of the cabbage and steamed them in a perforated tray for the last five minutes. Tossed the lot through the pasta with the balls and their magnificent juice.
Could not have asked for a finer dinner. Beautiful combination of textures, extraordinary delicacy and a brilliant depth of flavour.
Steamed Meatballs with Courgette & Tagliatelle
500g good quality lean minced beef
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
3 tbspns fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 medium courgette, made into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1/4 savoy cabbage, finely shredded
400g tagliatelle, cooked till just al dente
2 tbspns flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Mix together the beef, garlic, finely chopped parsley and one tablespoon of the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. When all the ingredients are well combined, shape into small balls. I ended up with about 24 the size of a walnut. A perfect mouthful!
Use the rest of the olive oil to very lightly grease the base of a solid metal pan and arrange the balls on top.
Heat the steam oven to 100C and cook the balls for 25 minutes.
Cook the pasta till al dente.
Add the shredded cabbage and courgettes to a perforated tray, season and slot into the steamer above the balls. Steam for another 5 minutes.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pan. Stir through the vegetables, roughly chopped pasta and the meatballs with all the juice. Combine well and serve in big bowls.
And be prepared to be amazed. Cooking each element separately means they all keep their individual tastes to be brought together at the end - it's all so lovely in your mouth.