Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks with Salsa Verde

Winter is the perfect time to make full use of slow cooked meals, whether you have a slow cooker or not. Slow cooked meals are the perfect prepare ahead meal as they usually cook for many hours, meaning that the bulk of the work, which is usually very little, can be done in the morning, leaving very little to do just before dinner time.

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Beef cheeks are a delicious cut of meat and are quite affordable. They are rich, smooth, lean and tender when slow cooked. They used to be a whole lot cheaper before the demand for them increased with their use in restaurants. Beef cheeks are much better slow cooked than cooked any other way, and the salsa verde that is added at the end in this meal cuts through the richness of the sauce and the beef perfectly.

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Salsa verde, or ‘green sauce’, is a sauce that is made from a combination of herbs – parsley, basil and mint, as well as garlic, capers, anchovies, Dijon mustard, olive oil, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. The result is such a light fresh, flavoursome sauce that is so good with this beef, but also works extremely well with fish or potatoes.

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I’m sure you’re wondering, what about the kids, I bet they don’t eat it? Mark really enjoys this meal, except he’d prefer to not have the salsa verde, most likely due to the bite that the uncooked garlic provides. Claire is always a bit funny with meat, if it’s not mince, but she always eats a small amount and Elise is hit and miss, on one occasion, she loved the slow cooked meat and on another she wasn’t interested. Depending on your family, this may be a dinner that is better saved for the adults, but I like to get our kids to eat the food that we eat the majority of the time.

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I would usually serve these beef cheeks with mashed potato or parsnip, or a combination of the two, as well as some steamed greens.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Serves 4-5

  • 375mL red wine – a heavier wine such as Shiraz or Cab Sav work well
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1kg beef cheeks
  • 1 brown onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Zest of 1 orange, cut off in strips
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tbs cornflour to thicken

Salsa Verde

  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley, loosely packed
  • 3/4 cup basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp baby capers
  • 1 anchovy
  • 2 tbs red wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Place the red wine into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for ~10 minutes to reduce the wine. Remove from the heat after 10 minutes.
  2. Heat a frypan, or crockpot (if cooking on the stove or in the oven), over medium heat and add the olive oil and the beef cheeks. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side to allow them to brown. Remove from heat.
  3. Place the onion in the frypan or crockpot and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to give it some colour, add the garlic and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
  4. Transfer the onion and garlic to the slow cooker or pot it will be cooked in and add the orange zest, bay leaves, thyme, stock and reduced red wine.
  5. Set the slow cooker to low and cook for at least 6 hours.
  6. If you are cooking on the stove top, cook, covered, over low heat for 3-4 hours or until the beef starts to fall apart. If cooking in the oven, cook, covered for 3-4 hours at ~140°C for 3-4 hours.
  7. While the beef is cooking, make the salsa by placing herbs, mustard, garlic, capers, anchovy and red wine vinegar in the small bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to chop the herbs. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and pulse a few times to combine. The salsa verde should not be completely smooth in consistency, so resist the temptation to over blend.
  8. After the 3-4 or 6 hours, depending on your cooking method, the beef should be very tender and starting to fall apart. At this point the liquid will still be quite thin.
  9. Remove 1 cup of liquid and add 2 tbs of cornflour to this 1 cup of liquid and mix to combine. Return this back into the slow cooker and mix gently to combine. This will help to thicken the sauce.
  10. Place the pot over low heat or increase the heat of the slow cooker and remove the lid and allow the liquid to bubble for around 5 minutes to help to further thicken the sauce.
  11. Serve the beef cheeks with mashed potato or parsnip and drizzle some salsa verde over the top.

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Fennel, Zucchini and Walnut Salad

Over the past few months, we have been enjoying a lot of salads, which I have just thrown together with whatever we have in the fridge and they have been turning out brilliantly. This is one of the ones that I actually documented what I did and thought I would share it.

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As with most salads, this one is a great one to pair with any sort of barbecued meat, chicken or fish and a good one to take to friends place if you’re asked to bring a salad as it’s a little bit different.

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I have found that with the regular appearance of new and different salads on the dinner table over the Summer, the kids have taken more of a liking to salad, especially Claire. Previously she would have a sparrows helping of salad, now she will help herself to seconds and thirds. Whether this is an age thing or a product of repetitive exposure, I’m not sure, but we’ll go with it and keep having salads.

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I have written posts before on ways to spice up a salad, but the main things that make this salad are:

  1. It contains fruit for a bit of sweetness
  2. It contains nuts for some crunch and protein
  3. It includes some veggies, which are more regularly seen as cooked veggies and not in a salad – the broccoli
  4. It is topped with cheese for some protein and, let’s be honest, everyone loves cheese.

While these points are crucial for every salad, they do help to make it a ‘next level’ salad rather than a lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad, which does get a little bit boring.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a medium zucchini, finely sliced
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 baby fennel, finely sliced
  • 1 green apple, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 a small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 10 snow peas, halved lengthways
  • 10 sugar snap peas, halved lengthways
  • 10 green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tbs goats cheese
  • 1-2 tbs fennel fronds

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a small tray with baking paper.
  2. Using a mandolin (if you have one), finely slice the zucchini into rounds and place into a small bowl. Add the white wine vinegar and toss to coat and set aside.
  3. Finely slice the fennel, using the mandolin and place into a large bowl. Change the mandolin setting to cut the apple into matchsticks and add to the fennel. If you don’t have a mandolin, using a knife will also work well for the zucchini, fennel and apple.
  4. Place broccoli florets, snow peas, sugar snap peas and beans into a medium sized bowl and blanch by covering with boiling water. Allow this to sit for 2-3 minutes and then drain the water and refresh under cold water. Add to the bowl with the fennel.
  5. Place the walnuts into the preheated oven and toast until golden brown. This will take 5-10 minutes but check after 5 minutes.
  6. While the walnuts are toasting, prepare the dressing by combining all ingredients in a small bowl or jar and mixing/shaking well to combine.
  7. Add the zucchini to the remainder of the salad ingredients, discarding the white wine vinegar. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Place into serving bowl and top with toasted walnuts, goats cheese and fennel fronds. Edible flowers are a lovely finishing touch also.
  8. Serve and enjoy.

Dhal with Cauliflower and Eggplant

Dhal (dal, daal, dahl) is a term used for dried, split pulses (legumes), and also for the thick soupy-like dishes that are made using these pulses.

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I have been playing around with a dhal recipe for a few months now and I’m keen to incorporate it into my regular repertoire as it’s a great way to include a meat free meal that is based on the nutrition powerhouses that are pulses. Dhal can be made using a variety of split pulses or lentils, such as red lentils, channa dhal (similar to yellow split peas) and even du puy lentils. Whichever pulse you choose to use, you are providing your body with a great source of plant based protein. Just 1/2 a cup of pulses provides as much protein as 1-2 cups of other plant based sources, such as quinoa and rice, respectively. They are also a good source of iron, folate and potassium. A great food group to include for everyone, but particularly those who choose to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet.

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The fibre contained in pulses is soluble fibre, resistant starch and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre assists with digestive health, as well as helping to manage body weight, increase satiety, as well as improve blood sugar levels and assist in improving cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibre assists with digestive health and provides roughage for the body, assisting with bowels. Resistant starch is possibly one of the most important types of fibre, as it is starch that is resistant to digestion, meaning it will reach the end part of the digestive tract, where all the good bacteria live, providing a source of food for these bacteria (probiotics) to feed on, improving gut health. Resistant starch also assists in improving blood sugar levels and blood cholesterol levels.

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We should be aiming to include about 1/2 a cup of pulses at least 2-3 times per week. Achieving this can be as simple as regularly consuming hummus or including kidney beans into tacos or brown lentils into a bolognese sauce or adding some chickpeas or cannellini beans into a casserole or stew.

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Often a dhal is made on its own, then served with vegetables, meat or naan on the side. I have decided to add some eggplant and cauliflower to this particular dish as the flavours work really well, it helps to bulk out the dish, increases the overall vegetable content of the meal, and the kids happily eat the eggplant, which they wouldn’t if I served it up on its own. The kids absolutely loved this meal the most recent time I made it, and I think it’s because I finally got the spice combination right, meaning that it wasn’t too spicy for them. All three of their bowls were clean at the end of the meal.

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If you are making this for adults only, I would increase the mustard seeds and garam masala by half to add a little bit of punch. If you are adults sharing this meal with children and would like a bit more heat, you can add some chilli flakes or fresh chilli at the end to spice things up.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6

  • 2 cups channa dhal or yellow split peas
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 10g ginger grated
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  • 1/4 cup cashews, finely chopped
  • 400g crushed tomatoes
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 1L water
  • 1 medium eggplant, diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups cauliflower, cut into small florets

Method:

  1. Place channa dhal or split peas into a bowl and cover with water. Leave to soak for at least 1 hour.
  2. Place the diced eggplant into a bowl and add salt. Toss and leave to sit for 20 minutes. Rinse off the salt and pat dry with paper towel. Set aside.
  3. Heat a large crockpot or saucepan over medium heat, add onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds and cook, stirring for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the remainder of the spices, curry leaves, cashews and tomatoes and stir to form a thick paste.
  4. Add the coconut milk, soaked pulses, eggplant and water and bring to the boil. Once boiled, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally, until the pulses are tender but have not turned to mush. Add more water if needed.
  5. Once 20 minutes of cooking time has passed, add the cauliflower and continue cooking until the pulses are tender.
  6. Once cooked, serve with steamed rice or naan.

Roast Cauliflower and Cannellini Bean Soup

A cold Winter’s day call for a nice bowl of warm, filling and nourishing soup, and with Cauliflower in season, what better soup to make than a Roast Cauliflower and Cannellini Bean Soup.

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I do already have a Creamy Bacon and Cauliflower Soup on my blog, which is very popular, and super delicious, but if you are looking for a wholesome meat free cauliflower soup, then this is the one for you. The addition of the cannellini beans adds a quality source of plant based protein, helping to increase satiety and assist with muscle repair and growth, as well as being a rich soluble fibre source. Legumes, pulses and beans are often a forgotten group of foods, especially for meat eaters, which is a shame as they are a nutritional powerhouse. I am trying to include these into my cooking and our meals on a more regular basis.

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Cauliflower is a vegetable which belongs to the brassica family, the same family as broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage. It is very low in calories and a good source of fibre, which is important for digestive health, and antioxidants, such as vitamin C, which helps to boost the immune system and improve heart health. By roasting the cauliflower prior to making this soup, enhances the flavour of the cauliflower and provides a deep caramelised flavour, which pairs really well with the parmesan cheese that is added at the end.

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We have had this batch of cauliflower soup with some Pumpkin, Cheese and Rosemary Scones, a Not Quite Nigella recipe, which is linked here. These scones are light, fluffy and oh so flavoursome – definitely worth a try. If you’re not into scones, a nice crusty piece of bread with some butter works nicely, or even the soup on it’s own makes a great meal.

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The kids ate some of this soup. I wouldn’t say they loved it, but they ate it (except Elise, who threw her bowl on the floor…she is only 17 months, so I won’t take it to heart)! Despite this, I will continue to make soups like this and keep offering to the kids, and one day (hopefully) they will really enjoy them, and ask for a second bowl. Persistence and food exposure is key when it comes to kids.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 red onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 cups of broccoli florets
  • 1 tin cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the cauliflower florets into a bowl, drizzle with 2 tbs of olive oil and place onto the baking tray and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat, add remaining olive oil and onion and cook, stirring regularly for 6-7 minutes or until soft, translucent and golden brown. Add garlic and thyme and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the roasted cauliflower, broccoli florets, stock, cannelini beans, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Allow to cool slightly.
  5. Using a stick blender, blend the soup until smooth. Add the cheese, milk, nutmeg and lemon juice and blend until incorporated.
  6. Serve topped with some fresh chives.

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

With the weather starting to cool down again, I have pulled the slow cooker out for some wholesome, hearty meals that require very little preparation.

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I have only had a slow cooker for a few years and I really don’t know what I did before it.  I particularly find it very useful for the days that I am working, as I can get everything ready that morning or the night before and then turn it on before I go to work, then when we return home, not only does the house smell amazing, but dinner it ready – just like going to a restaurant, right!!??! 🙂 On the days that I work, I finish between 5-5:30pm, and by the time I pick the kids up from childcare and after school care, we don’t get home until around 6pm, and we like to have the kids in bed at 7pm, which leaves little time for meal prepping.

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Once I got home, I added the cannellini beans to the Moroccan Vegetable Stew while the kettle was boiling for the cous cous. Once the kettle boiled I cooked the cous cous, and while this was cooking, served up the stew (in which time the cous cous was pretty much done), topped with yoghurt, preserved lemon and coriander, so we were eating around 6:05pm. Win!

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The kids enjoyed this, which was great as it had a variety of vegetables and beans/legumes for a protein source. If you wanted you could definitely add some chicken or lamb to this at the start if you wanted it to be a meat containing meal.

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If you didn’t want to serve this with the quinoa, you could leave it out and have it as a soupy stew or with some fresh crusty bread to mop up the juice.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tbs ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/3 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 300g pumpkin, peeled and diced
  • 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp harissa
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 400g tin crushed tomatoes
  • 400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • Quinoa, to serve
  • Natural yoghurt, to serve
  • Preserved lemon, finely chopped or squeeze of lemon juice, to serve
  • Fresh coriander leaves, to serve

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, cinnamon, saffron, harrisa and turmeric and mix to combine.
  2. Into the slow cooker, place the onion, ginger, garlic, cauliflower, pumpkin, chickpeas, spices, honey, stock and tomatoes. Mix gently to combine, place the lid on the slow cooker and set to low and cook for 8 hours.
  3. When ready to serve, add the cannellini beans and spinach and mix to combine, allowing to cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Place the cous cous into a bowl, allowing ~1/3 cup of uncooked cous cous per person, and cover with equal amounts boiling water. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  5. Divide cous cous between bowls, top with the stew and serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt, lemon and coriander leaves.

Chicken, Lemon and Parmesan Rissoles

Rissoles are a versatile food that have stood the test of time. They make a great dinner or a BBQ lunch and can be put between 2 slices of bread with some salad and you have yourself a burger. These chicken burgers have all the flavours of a classic gremolata – garlic, parsley and lemon.

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As far as rissoles go, anything that is meat and shaped like a patty seem to be a hit with the kids, especially if sauce can be involved (I try to resist it for these ones). If you have vegetable adverse children and wanted to hide veggies into these rissoles, you could easily grate some carrot or zucchini and kids would be none the wiser.

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Any form of rissole can be made and frozen prior to cooking, so if you’re looking to save time, make a double batch and freeze half to save you the prep work next time. Any leftovers can be kept and easily reheated the following day. The rissoles themselves can be made earlier on in the day and kept in the fridge until needed.

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I have served these rissoles with a fennel slaw and oven baked chips, but any sort of salad will work really well. Aim to keep it to 2-3 rissoles per person and if you’re still hungry, have some more salad.

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Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 400g chicken mince
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • 1 tbs olive oil

Method:

  1. Place chicken mince, onion, egg, garlic, parmesan, breadcrumbs, lemon zest and parsley into a medium sized bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Using your hands, mix until all ingredients are well combined.
  3. Form into 10-12 balls and refrigerate until needed.
  4. Heat a medium sized frypan over medium heat. Add olive oil and place rissoles into pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Using an egg flip, turn the rissoles over and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
  5. Serve with salad or vegetables.

 

 

Spaghetti and Meatballs

 

Our family loves pasta, especially the kids. Whenever those carbohydrate loaded  shapes hit their plate (regardless of shape), it’s guaranteed a smooth and enjoyable meal for all – as long as I meet the requests of spaghetti being cut up or long! And to be sure, I always ask about 5 times, until I get the response “Mum, I said, I want it long”!!!

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This recipe is inspired by Jamie Oliver’s meatball pasta. I have just added a few things and tweaked it slightly. If you are time poor, or have to work and need a quick meal to reheat for the family, this is a great one and like any pasta sauce, lasagna type meal, it is always better the next day. The last time we had this, I made the sauce on a Tuesday night to have for dinner on Wednesday, and it was SO much better than when I make and eat it on the same day.

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Basil in this recipe is a great addition, but if you don’t have it, it’s still pretty delicious without it. I normally use spaghetti, but if you have little kids and they prefer macaroni or other shaped pastas, they are just as easily substituted.

The meatballs themselves can be made in advance and refrigerated, prior to cooking, until needed.

Ingredients:

Serves 4

Meatballs

  • 400 lean beef mince
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 2 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/3 cup multigrain breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs olive oil

Sauce

  • 1 brown onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium sized eggplant, cut into 1-2 cm cubes
  • 1 long red chilli
  • 2 x 400g tins diced tomatoes
  • 1 big handful of basil leaves, roughly torn
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 300g spaghetti

Method:

  1. Place the diced eggplant into a colander and season generously with salt and set aside for ~15 minutes. This will allow the eggplant to sweat, which removes some of the bitterness.
  2. To make the meatballs, place all ingredients, except the oil into a medium sized bowl.
  3. Using your hands, mix the mixture thoroughly, until well combined. If the mixture is too wet, add some more breadcrumbs.
  4. Shape the meatballs by rolling heaped teaspoons of the mixture into balls and place onto a plate. Once all meatballs are made, drizzle with olive oil and shake to coat.
  5. Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add the meatballs and cook for 6-7 minutes, turning regularly to ensure they are cooked. Remove from frypan when cooked.
  6. Wipe the frypan clean and heat 1 tbs oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook for ~7-8 minutes or until translucent.
  7. Add garlic, chilli and eggplant and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
  8. Add tomatoes and 1 handful of chopped basil and bring to the boil.
  9. Turn heat down to a simmer and add meatballs. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until sauce is reduced slightly. Turn off the heat.
  10. To make the pasta, fill a large pot with water, add some salt and bring to the boil. Once boiling, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain.
  11. To serve, divide the pasta among four bowls, top with meatballs and grated parmesan cheese and some torn basil leaves.