If good meatballs don’t scream romance, I’m not sure what does 😉 . I was fretting a little that my vegan meatball recipe that I had planned for today isn’t very Valentine’s Day suitable so I added a little red tomato sauce to them and voila, the recipe is very current again.
In all seriousness, we have been enjoying these new vegan meatballs for a while now and I think they may be my favourite ‘meatballs’ on the blog so far, so I thought I would share so that you could experience a little meatball love yourself 🙂 . These have been inspired by IKEA meatballs, which we both really enjoyed but which I was dismayed to discover contain a lot of fat – like ‘you don’t need to add any oil to the pan to fry them’ amount of fat. I did enjoy them and I am not vowing not to have them ever again, but certainly not that often.
This discovery has prompted me to experiment. What I really liked about them was a bit of chew and resistance that is hard to replicate with plants without using something like vital wheat gluten, which would render these not gluten-free. IKEA achieves it using pea protein but as I didn’t have any, I thought that it may be worth trying with psyllium husks which are used to replace gluten in gluten-free baking and I had it in my cupboard. It worked a charm once I played around with the quantities.
I used two different shiitake mushrooms, fresh and dried. The former contribute texture and flavour as they are famous for their depth of flavour and meatiness, the latter, which was originally a leftover from a mushroom stock I made for a mushroom risotto, contributes even more flavour and tackles waste, which I personally like. Whenever I make something that calls for mushroom stock like my vegan ramen, risotto or bolognese and I cannot be bothered to chop rehydrated mushrooms finely, I freeze them and then add them to my meatballs to enhance their taste and nothing gets thrown away. I hate waste so that kind of efficiency really appeals to me.
These guys are flavoursome, meaty with a bit of a chew – perfect over a saucy pasta or in a sandwich. I hope you’ll give them a try and enjoy them as much as we have!
- 2 medium (10 g / 0.35 oz) dried shiitake caps, rehydrated in boiling water (or sub with more fresh)
- 15 ml / 1 tbsp vegetable oil, extra for frying
- 2 large shallots / ½ medium onion, chopped roughly
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced roughly
- 125 g / 4½ oz fresh shiitake mushrooms*, sliced
- 130 g / ¾ cup cooked chickpeas or cannellini beans
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves or ½ tsp dried
- 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves or ½ tsp dried
- 1¼ tsp smoked sweet paprika
- ½ tsp black pepper, to taste
- heaped ½ tsp salt, adjust to taste
- 10 ml / 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 3 tsp / 1 tbsp psyllium husks**
- 20 g / ¼ cup oats (GF certified if needed)
- 15 – 30 g / ¼ – ½ cup coarse breadcrumbs (or sub more oats)
- 30 ml / 2 tbsp vegetable oil, extra for frying
- 1 medium onion, diced finely
- 4 garlic cloves, diced finely
- 2 x 400 g / 14 oz plum tomatoes
- 2 tsp Italian herbs or ¼ dried thyme, basil, parsley, rosemary, marjoram and ¾ tsp oregano
- ¾ tsp salt, adjust to taste
- ½ tsp black pepper, to taste
- a good pinch chilli flakes (optional)
- ½-1 tsp sugar (optional)
- Rinse dried shiitake and cover with boiling water (weigh the shiitake down or else they will float) to soften. Keep immersed in water for as long as possible. I tend to use rehydrated mushrooms leftover from a mushroom stock.
- Heat up a bit of oil in a skillet and add roughly chopped shallots and garlic, fry gently for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Next add in sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms and sauté until fully cooked and there is no moisture in the pan, a little caramelisation is nice too.
- Cut off stems from rehydrated shiitake and discard them, slice the caps and add to the food processor together with all the remaining ingredients – if baking your meatballs use only 15 g / ¼ cup breadcrumbs. I recommend not adding chickpeas yet and processing them separately to retain a bit of texture (but that’s optional).
- Process the mushroom mixture until everything is well chopped, transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- If you haven’t already, add your chickpeas to the food processor and pulse a few times until processed but there is a bit of texture left.
- Add chickpeas to the mushroom mixture and incorporate them together well with your hands.
- Squeeze portions of the mixture in your palm to make it stick to itself and then roll into balls (mine were 20 g / ¾ oz each) in your hands.
- Chill the meatballs in the fridge for a few hours (overnight is best if you have time), especially if frying them.
- FRYING: Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet or pan and once the oil is hot, arrange chilled meatballs in a circle in a clockwise fashion. Give them a minute or two on one side, lift gently and fry on the other size until browned and crispy on the outside.
- BAKING: Preheat the oven to 180° C / 355° F. Brush a little bit of oil under each meatball and brush the tops with a little oil also. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping them once halfway through. Use a flat spatula to gently prise them off the tray if they stick.
- Heat up olive oil in a large frying pan.
- Add diced onion and sauté until softened and translucent stirring regularly (about 5 minutes on a low heat).
- Add diced garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes, until fragrant, stirring very frequently.
- Next, add in plum tomatoes and squash them gently with a spatula before adding in a can’s worth of water.
- Season with dried herbs, salt and pepper and a pinch of chilli flakes if you enjoy a little heat.
- Allow the sauce to bubble gently for about 45-60 minutes until the tomatoes break down completely and the sauce thickens. Keep an eye on the pan, giving it a stir now and then and top up with more water if the sauce is starting to look dry while the tomatoes are still too chunky.
- Once the sauce reaches the desired consistency, adjust the seasoning to your taste, adding a dash of sugar if the sauce tastes too acidic.
**Psyllium husks are what help these bind together and gives them, together with shiitake, their meaty texture. You can sub with 2 tbsp ground flax or chia seeds but the texture won’t be quite the same.