Images above: Jo Pratt’s Sweet & Sour Meatballs & Chocolate brownies
Chiswick resident and prime mover in the Cookbook Supper Club, Jo Pratt, has a new book out this autumn: the Flexible Family Cookbook. The acclaimed TV cook specialises in ‘sensible and simple but sensational’ recipes for all the family, easily adapted to please and designed to deliver flavour. She has given The Chiswick Calendar two recipes for readers to try out this half term.
Sweet and sour pork meatball traybake
Ordering sweet and sour in a Chinese restaurant reminds me of my first Chinese food experience as a child. Now my own kids love the deep-fried pieces of pork or chicken coated in a sweet sticky sauce just as much as I do, which is great, but only as an occasional treat. That’s where this recipe comes in. I wanted to make something we could enjoy just as much but doesn’t have any guilt attached to it, and luckily it gets a huge thumbs up from us all.
Time taken 1 hour / Serves 4
For the meatballs
500g / 1lb 2ox minced (ground) pork
60g / 2oz fresh white breadcrumbs
4 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated or crushed
2 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice seasoning
1 egg, lightly beaten
flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed (canola) oil
For the sauce
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 red, green, yellow or orange peppers, or 3 if they are small, cut into bite sized chunks
500ml / 17 fl oz passata
250ml / 9 fl oz / 1 cup fresh pineapple juice
4 tbsp rice or cider vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
250g / 9 oz pineapple, cut into chunks
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/gas 6.
Mix together the minced pork, breadcrumbs, spring onions, garlic, ginger, Chinese 5-spice, egg and season with salt and pepper. Shape into walnut-sized balls. Heat a heavy-based roasting tray over a high heat and add the oil. Fry the meatballs for a few minutes, turning occasionally for an even colour. They don’t need to be fully cooked through at this stage, just golden on the outside. Remove from the pan.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and peppers to the roasting tray, along with a drop more oil if necessary. Fry for a few minutes until they start to take on some colour around the edges. Stir in the passata, pineapple juice, vinegar and soy sauce and bring to a simmer.
Return the meatballs to the sauce and add the pineapple. Gently stir into the sauce and put the tray in the oven. Cook for 35 minutes until the sauce is rich in colour and the vegetables are tender.
Vegetarian/vegan: Tofu and Shiitake ‘Meatballs’ are a perfect alternative to the pork meatballs. Put 250g/9 oz extra-firm tofu, 100g/3½ oz shiitake mushrooms, 2 tablespoons milk (dairy
or plant-based) and 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (as an egg replacement) in a food processor with the above quantity of breadcrumbs, spring onions (scallions), ginger, garlic, Chinese
5-spice and seasoning. Blitz well and firmly shape into walnut size balls. Fry until golden and add to the sauce for just the last 10 minutes of the oven cooking time.
Flavour swap: minced (ground) chicken, turkey or beef can be used instead of pork.
Get ahead: the raw meatballs can be prepared ahead of time and kept in the fridge for up to 2 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge before cooking.
Images above: Jo Pratt and her latest cookbook: Flexible Family Cookbook
Favourite chocolate brownies
I’m a huge fan of making brownies. You can be as flexible as you like with flavourings and treats added to the brownie mix, depending on what you’ve got in the cupboard or who you’re making them for. Once you’ve made a batch you’ll realise that this is a very flexible recipe that can be adapted for any occasion, from a bake sale, morning coffee, decadent dessert, a foodie gift, weekend baking with the kids or simply as a naughty-but-nice treat for the family.
Time taken 45 minutes / Makes 15 generous sized brownies
200g/7 oz unsalted butter
200g/7 oz plain chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids),
300g/10½ oz granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
125g/4½ oz plain (all-purpose) flour
pinch of flaked sea salt
Plus… additional flavours (optional)
1 tsp ground cinnamon or ginger
½ tsp chilli powder (believe me, it’s delicious)
1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
grated zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp brandy, rum, coconut or orange liqueur
… and up to 250g/9 oz treat of choice (optional) white, milk or dark chocolate chunks/chips/buttons
pecans, walnuts, toasted hazelnuts or macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
fudge or caramel chunks
dried fruit, such as cherries, raisins, cranberries
mini marshmallows (just a couple of handfuls)
chopped stem ginger or candied peel
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas 4.
Line a 20 x 30cm/8 x 12 inch rectangular, 3–4cm/ 1¼–½ inch deep baking tin with baking parchment.
Place the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and leave to gently melt, stirring as little as possible. Alternatively, gently melt in the microwave in 10-second bursts.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugarand vanilla extract until they are lovely and thick and creamy, but you still feel the gritty granules of sugar. Pour in the melted chocolate and butter and mix in.
Sift in the flour and salt and add any optional flavourings or treats. Pour into the baking tin and bake for 25 minutes until the top is cracking and the centre is just set.
Leave to cool in the tin for about 30 minutes before cutting into squares.
Gluten-free: the recipe is just as perfect with a plain gluten-free flour.
Dairy-free: choose a suitable dairy-free chocolate and any treats. For a butter substitute you can use a dairy-free butter, coconut oil or even a light olive or sunflower oil. The results are a little softer and gooier but what’s not to like about that!
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