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.


spinach and ricotta courgetti


This is a zucchini.

It’s a zucchini, it has always been and will always be a zucchini, but today I will concede to the French because courgetti sounds so much better than zuchetti.

A while back, when I was investigating low-carb meals (that was a hoot), I came across the notion of using vegetables as alternatives to pasta and rice. There was the mysterious as-yet-unseen spaghetti squash (a pumpkin that turns into noodles when you cook it?? What?!), cauli-rice, cauliflower mash, and of course, courgette spaghetti.

At the time I thought nothing of it – but after watching Nigel Slater methodically clean his fridge by getting creative with his leftovers, I was inspired. I had half a bag of dangerously green spinach, a handful of plum tomatoes and a sliver of smoked salmon lying around. And so with a renewed creative burst I made the tastiest supper I’ve had in a long time, and I’m going to share it with you on the condition that you understand that I haven’t been disloyal to my Australian roots by calling it courgetti.

A myriad of flavours and textures. Just perfect.

Spinach and ricotta courgetti with smoked salmon
1 courgette
2 garlic cloves, sliced
Half a bag of spinach (about three handfuls)
1 small slice of smoked salmon, pulled into pieces
1 tablespoon smooth ricotta
6 mini mozzarella pearls (you can use one ball and slice it if you like, but I think the pearls are adorable)
6 plum tomatoes, sliced
Balsamic vinegar

In a pan, place the garlic and a good slug of olive oil and some salt to stop the garlic burning. Keep over a medium heat, being careful not to let the garlic colour, whilst you prepare the courgetti.

Take a vegetable peeler and run it down the length of the vegetable, as if you were going to peel it, but keep peeling in the same direction to form strips. I always, always find that peelers aren’t big enough to accommodate the full width of the courgette, so I peel until it starts to become a problem and then I turn it over and do the other side until the same thing happens. At this point, I slice the zucchini in half lengthways and continue with the peeler.

Once you’ve gotten to the point where no more noodles can be made, just chop the remaining chunk of courgette and add it to the pan with the garlic, which should be sizzling nicely by now.

Let the chunky courgette cook until soft and then add the spinach. When it starts to wilt, add the courgetti and move it around the pan. The courgetti really only needs about two or three minutes to warm through and take on the taste of the garlic.

Add the smoked salmon, then remove the pan from heat and dab in blobs of the ricotta. If you’ve bought smooth ricotta, it basically melts to form a creamy, garlicky sauce, but I imagine regular ricotta would be lovely as well.

Arrange on a plate and top with the mini mozzarella pearls, the plum tomatoes and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. The mildness of the courgette is the perfect base for the creaminess of the cheese and the sharpness of the tomatoes and vinegar, set off nicely by the zingy garlic. Bliss.

pasta e broccoli

First cauliflower, now broccoli. What is going on here?


This is something I only learned in my mid-twenties, and what a revelation it is. Sometimes, after a long week at work, the best medicine is to meet up with the girls and have a good natter over a few cocktails. Let your hair down, dance the night away, cavort and frolic into the wee hours of the morn and then grab a much-regretted kebab on the way home.

Sometimes, however, you just want to stay in and have a quiet night with a book and a glass of wine.

A quick, easy supper is in order, something crafted of cupboard ingredients with a minimal amount of fuss. That way you can go from stove to table in fifteen minutes and be happy as a clam for the rest of the evening (leave the washing up until tomorrow. Go on, I won’t tell.)

Pasta e broccoli
1 cup pasta (you’re looking for something that cooks in about 9 minutes)
1 small head broccoli
3-4 anchovies
3 garlic cloves
Small handful pine nuts
Olive oil

Start with the pasta. Put a pot of water on to boil while you finely slice the garlic cloves, and turn the head of broccoli into small, bite-size florets. If you can be bothered, making them even sizes will mean that they cook at the same time.

In a pan, drizzle some olive oil and add the garlic cloves over a low heat. Don’t let them brown, as this will lend a sharp, bitter taste to the dish.

‘Scuse the scorch marks. A bacon experiment that went slightly awry.

Once they’ve gone translucent, add the anchovies. If you’re a vegetarian or just don’t like anchovies, leave them out and add parmesan cheese at the end.

Cook until the anchovies have begun to break up, then add the broccoli. Add a dash of the pasta water to the pan to help the broccoli cook.

Once the pasta is done, drain and add to the pan. Mix well, and serve with the pine nuts sprinkled on top.

Quick, easy and simple.

A note about pasta: this is probably obvious enough, but it’s worth mentioning that when you’re adding cooked pasta to a hot pan, if you’re planning to keep the thing on the stove for any length of time you’ll need to underdo the pasta when you boil it. Otherwise, it keeps cooking along merrily in the pan when you don’t really want it to, and you end up with soggy pasta. Eurgh.