Rick Stein’s beef and pork meatballs in a tomato and ‘piment’ sauce

This recipe came from a market stall in the Catalan area of France, where these meatballs were being cooked in a huge paella pan. Fabulous they were, flavoured with cinnamon and piment d’Espelette in an exquisite sauce with green olives, haricots and bacon. I thought there might be too much meat in the dish, but not at all.

rick stein beef and pork meatballs in a tomato and pigment sauce
James Murphy

SERVES 4-6

400g minced beef
400g minced pork
1 egg
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
small handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp piment d’Espelette, pimentón or unsmoked hot paprika
plain flour
salt and black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil

SAUCE

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
100g unsmoked lardons or cubes of cooked ham
1 tsp piment d’Espelette, pimentón or unsmoked hot paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
6 tomatoes, hard cores removed, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
150g pitted green olives, drained
400g tin haricot beans, drained

1. In a large bowl, mix together the meat, egg, garlic, parsley, cinnamon, piment d’Espelette and 2 tablespoons of flour. Season with salt and pepper and blend well. Using your hands, shape the mixture into golfball-sized balls, adding another tablespoon of flour if the mixture feels too wet to form into balls. Roll the balls in flour to lightly cover. Heat the oil in a large, preferably shallow, flameproof casserole dish, and brown the meatballs all over. Set them aside.

2. For the sauce, heat the tablespoon of olive oil in the same casserole dish and fry the onion and the lardons or ham until the onions are softened. Add the piment d’Espelette and cinnamon and cook for a minute, then add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and 250ml of water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the olives, haricot beans and browned meatballs to the sauce, together with any juices they have released.

3. Cover the pan and cook over a low heat for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Check a couple of times during cooking and add a little more water if the sauce looks as if it is getting too thick. Serve as a tapas or as a lunch or supper dish with pilaf rice.

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rick stein secret france recipeRick Stein’s Secret France by Rick Stein will be published on Thursday 31 October by BBC Books, price £26. To pre-order a copy with free p&p for £20.80 until 10 November, visit mailshop.co.uk or call 01603 648155.