Chicken Meatballs with Mushrooms and Cauliflower in Tomato Vegetable Sauce

Chicken mince and cauliflower go very well together in any mince dishes. Cauliflower provides softness and juicy texture, it also contributes to a delicate sweetness. Combined with the flavours and heat of fermented garlic and chilli peppers preserve, cumin powder and caramelised onions, flavoured by fennel and cumin seeds, the above mixture allows to prepare soft, juicy and delicious meatballs, that can be cooked in any sauces. Incorporation of mushrooms increases protein content and adds extra flavour to the dish, especially when Swiss mushrooms are used. I also like to enrich tomato based sauces with plenty of vegetables, where onions/leek, carrots and eggplant are a must. These sauces are rich in natural flavours, but seeds and preserves take them to the next level. Meatballs themselves give the sauce gentle chicken flavour, making the whole dish delicious, nourishing and comforting. Mince mix can be used to make meatballs as is, but uncooked buckwheat or quinoa (for those who can tolerate them) make the dish completely balanced in terms of protein/carbs/fibre ratios. It is hard to believe, but comfort food can be exceptionally healthy and good without any reservations.

Small meatballs without buckwheat are shown on photos above, and larger ones with buckwheat on the photo below.

Ingredients:

meatballs

  • 1kg chicken skinless thigh mince
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 egg
  • 200g Swiss mushrooms (or regular mushrooms)
  • 200g cauliflower “rice”
  • 1 heaped table spoon garlic, sweet and hot chilli preserve (I used homemade, can be replaced by any spice and herb mix)
  • pinch of fennel and cumin seeds
  • 1 table spoon cumin powder
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 table spoon olive oil

Note: for those who can tolerate pseudo-grains, uncooked raw buckwheat kernels could be added to the mince mix (quantity 1/2 cup, up to 1 cup).

sauce

mince portion from above ingredients is large enough to cook in two large pots, the portion of ingredients for the sauce is for 1/2 portion of mince mix

  • 1 table spoon olive oil
  • 1 table spoon coconut oil
  • pinch of cumin and caraway seeds
  • 2 large onions
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 medium/small eggplant
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 dessert/table spoon garlic and chilli preserve (as above)
  • sea salt and black pepper for seasoning

Preparation:

  • blend cauliflower and mushrooms separately to the size of rice grain or smaller, but not to complete homogeneous paste
  • heat olive oil in a pan
  • add fennel and cumin seeds
  • slice onion in semi-circles
  • fry 1-2 minutes on medium heat, season with sea salt and pepper, reduce heat to minimum
  • cook until onions become completely translucent
  • place all ingredients into a large and wide bowl, mix them to combine
  • if pseudo-grains are tolerated, add 240ml cup, or a touch less, raw buckwheat kernels (you can use quinoa as well)

Chicken mince mix for meatballs with raw buckwheat kernels

  • mince mix can be frozen as a whole, or as individual meatballs
  • when making sauce from frozen meatballs, use them frozen, they do not have to be thawed
  • it is better to freeze meatballs on a flat tray and when frozen, transfer them to zipped plastic bag or a container with tight lid

sauce

  • heat the mix of olive and coconut oil in a large pot
  • add cumin and caraway seeds
  • add onions, sliced in semi-circles
  • cook onions for 2 minutes on medium heat, season with salt and pepper
  • reduce heat and cook until onions are semi-translucent
  • add grated carrots and garlic and chilli peppers preserve, cook for 3-5 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally
  • add canned tomatoes and boiling water (2 or 3 volumes of the tomato can, depending on how much liquid you want in your sauce)
  • add thinly sliced peeled eggplant (I cut it in quarters first, and then slice them on mandoline slicer, 2 mm thin)
  • wait until boiling point and start to add meatballs
  • add cloves, check the seasoning, add sea salt if necessary
  • meatballs made from half of the portion of mince mixture form the recipe above will be completely covered by liquid, if not at the beginning, then definitely when meatballs slightly shrink while cooking
  • cook on low to medium heat (just simmering) for at least 1 hour, if cooked with buckwheat, better 90 minutes
  • add boiling water in the process, if the sauce becomes too thick
  • I like to cover the pot with tea towels and a blanket on top for 2-4 hours, for the dish to absorb all the juices slowly
  • however, the dish is ready after 20 minutes rest without being covered

Enjoy the dish with steamed vegetables, paleo pasta or just by itself. If the sauce has an excess liquid, it can be served as a thick vegetable soup with meatballs. The dish is very tasty even cold, but every reheating makes it even tastier.

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