turkey meatballs

Turkey meatballs - made for gobbling!
Turkey meatballs – made for gobbling!

I feel a bit ridiculous saying this when the memory of the chocolate hazelnut crepe I had for dessert last night is still fresh, but I’d like to be healthy. Wouldn’t we all?

Each day, we start out with the best of intentions and promise ourselves we’ll be good – and then, when confronted with the burger and fries we’ve wanted since time immemorial, our resistance crumbles like a honeycomb chocolate bar. Then the guilt sets in and the whole cycle begins again; the self-recrimination, the promise, the virtue of self-denial and sacrifice, and the inevitable ‘giving in’, generally a rather spectacular fall from grace involving a family-sized pizza and Sherlock DVDs.

Phew. How exhausting. I personally know of no quicker path to the ‘sharing’ bag of M&Ms.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if eating wasn’t a constant exercise in the ability to say no? Wouldn’t it fantastic if we weren’t continuously enslaved by the thought of indulgence, held captive by the mere scent of a splurge, paralysed by the fear of one food group or another? (Carbs. Hang on, fat. No, calories. Wait, sugar. Here, munch this piece of cardboard while I think about it.)

I think that like most things in life, eating well is about balance; generally making the right choices about what you eat, but also treating yourself occasionally and sensibly, without any of the insanity that goes along with being given rare and temporary freedom from the shackles of self-denial.

But thankfully, it isn’t all about salads versus burgers (or crepes, if you like). A lot of the time, you can make everyday meals healthier by having a look at what goes into them. Once you understand the ingredients, you can start tweaking recipes here and there to make them better for you.

With all that in mind, I’m having a look at turkey mince this week. It depends on the cuts used to make the mince and the fat content, but in general, pound for pound, turkey mince is lower in fat, calories and cholesterol than beef, pork, lamb and chicken. You can find turkey breast mince which is even leaner and is perfectly fine to use for this particular dish.

Because of its low fat content, turkey mince can tend towards being dry and tasteless, so it does take a little more love to get it to taste good. This recipe’s not for the weekday; leave it til the weekend when you’ve got the time to spend on cooking!

A healthy and satisfying pot of heart-friendly love.
A healthy and satisfying pot of heart-friendly love.

Turkey meatballs (makes 42)
For the meatballs
500g turkey breast mince
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato sauce
5 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tbsp mild chilli powder
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 chicken stock cube
1 egg
1 carrot, grated

For the sauce
1 red onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 x 400g cans peeled plum tomatoes
2 bay leaves
50g red lentils

Start by caramelising both onions. Basically, that means you put them into a non-stick saucepan over medium-high heat and stir occasionally as they go through the process from raw to soft to sticky, which should take around 30 minutes. You don’t want to fuss over them too much, and after about 10 minutes you can add a small splash of balsamic vinegar or sugar to help them along.

Once they’re caramelised, remove half and place into a large pot.

Back to the saucepan. Crumble in the stock cube with a little water, and add the garlic. Cook for a further 2 minutes and then remove from heat, allowing to cool completely.

Place the cool sticky onion mixture in a large bowl with the turkey mince, egg, spices, grated carrot and tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

Shape the meatballs with your hands. My mix made exactly 42 small meatballs, which I think are nicer than the big ones, but cook as you like.

While you’re getting ready to brown the turkey meatballs, get the sauce started. The large pot with the remaining caramelised onions can go back on the stove with the rest of the ingredients for the sauce. Cover and bring to a boil, adding a little water if the lentils soak up too much liquid.

Brown the turkey meatballs in batches and add to the pot. Simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Serve with wholemeal pasta, brown rice or greens.


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