Meatball and Potato Casserole
This week a different take on meatballs. I still love Roman style polpette, but I also love scalloped potatoes and a very hearty dish does this make. Yes, I know the weather is getting warmer, however, offices are getting much colder and it is a bizarre sight to see colleagues at the start of summer dressed for winter in Reykjavik. Though it is essentially a one-pot dish, as the meatballs are essentially self-contained, they divide-up into individual units and clearly can have a salad accompaniment.
Quantities can vary and in part, depends in the size of your baking dish. The meat quantity was based on a 500g plate of minced beef, 75% lean. Remember, you want the meat to be tender and moist. The number of potatoes will depend on potato size.
You will need to prepare Béchamel sauce for this dish in advance. Begin by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour and whisk in a little of the milk at a time, stirring continuously until you have a smooth, slightly thick sauce. Remove from the heat; season with salt and pepper. Add grated nutmeg for additional flavour.
Cut your potatoes into 5mm scallops and line the base and sides with potato. Mix your mince with a finely chopped white onion, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic, paprika and a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, (Lee & Perrins’) and form them into balls. Count the number of potato discs on the base of the dish and divide the meat accordingly. Place each meatball on the meat and add potato discs to divide off each meatball as below:
Then spoon in each space some béchamel over each meatball. I love béchamel, but refrain from pouring the sauce over everything as part of the enjoyment is enjoying the crisp potato.
To complete the dish, preheat the oven to 300 degrees and add some grated cheese on top of the béchamel. This can be mozzarella, emmental or cheddar, depending on taste.
Place in the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes, taking out when the crust is golden.
Serve and enjoy.
For cheese lovers, Sultan now have Zanelli mini mozarelle and one could place one in each of the meatballs before cooking, their size is well suited to this type of use without compromising the overall shape and size of the meatball. Mushroom is something that again would pair well with the overall taste and tone of the dish, either as part of the meatball mix or as a layer between the meatball and béchamel.
This is not a ‘classic’ dish. It is a one-pot, hearty, fun easy to prepare and cook dish that looks more fuss than it actually is. One is free to play with it.
The condiments are seriously recommended as the Worcestershire sauce aids the cooking process because of its component parts and without the garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and paprika (and nutmeg) the result, though comforting, would be bland. The secret of seasoning, while very personal, is that the idea is to add enough spice to lift the taste, without dominating the whole dish.
If I was looking for some fire, I would forget about the béchamel altogether and cover the meatballs with a tomato/chilli topping. Have fun and experiment!