Monday, February 22, 2016

Spaghetti & Meatballs

It has been almost a year since the `Beef Ban’ for which we have to thank both President Pranab Mukherjee and Chief Minister Devendra Fa(t)dnavis.

Initially, there was no beef [or what is regarded as beef in India] available. Restaurants took it off their menus. There was plenty of turmoil, pro and anti-ban voices were strident. In other words, the same story – screaming, shouting, debates ad nauseam on TV every evening.

You may want to read an earlier blog I had written when the beef ban came into force.

Personally speaking, we did miss some of the beef dishes when we ate out. I did, on occasion, miss buying some tenderloin and making a Chinese stir fry. I suddenly developed pangs for the Tenderloin Burger they served at The Table; it was excellent, by far the best burger in Mumbai, as also the most expensive, by far. I did miss buying beef mince and making up a hearty Bolognaise.

As is almost always the case, things have settled down. Tenderloin is back in the stores (albeit from a Water Buffalo) as is beef mince. Many restaurants have reintroduced beef dishes. Life is not so bad after all.

A few weeks ago I was at our local `cold storage’ which is actually an Indian euphemism for a butchers shop when I saw that they were selling beef, veal, pork and chicken mince. I was most intrigued. Veal mince is certainly unusual. I am unsure if I was merely inobservant earlier and never noticed veal mince on sale, or, if this beef ban has in some way resulted in the greater availability of veal. I know many of you would be appalled at the fact that veal is being sold, and would be up in arms as veal has a terrible reputation as the animals are not treated humanely. Honestly speaking, if being treated humanely is of concern to you, you should not be in India. Forget animals, I am unsure if humans are treated humanely. Have you seen signs in elevators saying ‘servants not allowed’? But that is the subject of another blog.     

Seeing veal mince on sale got me thinking. I remembered seeing an article and accompanying recipe in the Bon Appetit magazine for the `Best Spaghetti & Meatballs’. I recalled that the recipe required veal mince. I set about looking thru the index of every Bon Appetit I had at home and after poring thru many back issues found what I was looking for. Before you ask, yes I did do an internet search on the Bon Appetit site, but could not find what I was looking for.

Spaghetti and meatballs – a classic of American Italian comfort food. If I recall, Archie comics, which we all read as kids, had a character – either Big Moose or Jughead – who devoured platefuls of the stuff. Suddenly, probably a good 40 to 45 years after I must have read Archie comics, seeing veal mince on sale at a butcher in Bandra, I wanted to make Spaghetti and Meatballs.  

Armed with the recipe from Bon Appetit, which promised the softest, moistest, tastiest meatballs we set about making them. We have made them twice. In the past 3 weeks. They are excellent. The recipe is good, it works and the results are everything the recipe promises.

It is a fairly straightforward recipe. 250 grams each of veal and pork mince, some grated Parmesan, a couple of eggs, some breadcrumbs and some flavouring by way of herbs and spice. The first time we used Parsley. The second time we used Garlic, Fennel [Sauf] and dried Italian Pepperoncino. Brilliant.  Once the meatballs were made you could have fried them and added them to the Tomato sauce, or, simmered them in the Tomato sauce or fried, baked the meatballs and poured the Tomato sauce on top. We decided to simmer the meatballs in a Tomato sauce. The result was far better than I expected.

We were both rather pleased with our handiwork. This dish is certainly going to be something we will make more often. The 45 year wait was well worth it. Big Moose or Jughead were spot on. This is a really good dish. 

Spaghetti & Meatballs

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