I love a meatball or 10 but whenever I think of meatballs it always reminds me of that one time I was clearly desperate and on a low after a traumatic shopping trip with my army of small children, yes I was in Ikea and yes I ate a meatball!!! Once was enough and even that was too much in all honesty. But today I want to take away the meat and replace it with delicious chickpeas and loads of fresh flavours. Back to basics.
I’m a little in love with the cost as well as the instant simplicity of this recipe. Using tinned chickpeas echoes cucina povera (basic style) cooking and I find tinned beans never fail me. If you prefer to use dried then please do but soak them for at least 24 hours prior to use (changing the water every couple of hours). Stacked high in my larder the tinned beans and pulses are a filler, my back up to push my humble family dishes that little further and when feeding a family of 6 every evening every filler truly helps. I made these initially for my vegetarian daughter Natalia as a substitute my mixed meatballs, but now find the rest of my family are asking for them too.
They are incredibly quick and easy to make and are great for the purse strings too. For diversity of taste and flavour change the herbs to suit the season. Add wild garlic during April and May or a squeeze of lemon and a finely chopped courgette flower through the summer period. Allow the seasons to guide you when it comes to varying the flavour.
Makes 16 walnut size chickpea balls, simply double the ingredients as required to prepare more for the freezer.
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained (retain the liquid and add it to bread or pasta dough
80g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated (or a vegetarian substitute)
50g dried natural breadcrumbs
1 plump clove of garlic, peeled, halved
1 large egg
Salt & pepper to season
Pinch of dried chilli
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
Small bunch parsley & basil, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. celery leaves
Olive oil (For frying)
1. Place all of the ingredients excluding the olive oil into a food processor and pulse for 1 minute.
2. Scrape the contents into a clean bowl, season, stir and taste.
3. Pinch sections of the mixture and roll them into balls the size approximately of a small.
4. Use all of the mixture and pop the balls onto a tray and chill for 30 minutes in your fridge prior to cooking.
5. Fry the balls off in a little olive oil until lightly coloured throughout. This will take approximately 10 minutes. At this point the chickpea balls can be cooled and frozen. I like to serve mine dropped into a sugo (tomato pasatta) with extra seasoning and soft fresh herbs.