Discover Aspinal of London

A Recipe by Tess Ward: Pork and Fennel Meatballs with Barley

London-based food writer Tess Ward is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, and has worked in the kitchens of River Cottage and The Ritz during her career. She has exclusively developed some recipes for Aspinal of London.


Tess Ward: "I love meatballs, especially with a spicy tomato sauce and a nutty grain like pearl barley, in place of mash. This lesser used grain cooks in the same way as rice and the combination yields a wonderful result of flavour and texture.

For best results make the mince the day before and keep in the fridge, so the flavours get a chance to work together, before you shape into meatballs."



For the meatballs

  • 6 tbsp milk
  • 70g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 200g minced beef
  • 300g minced pork
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • a large handful of parsley leaves, chopped
  • about 6 bushy sprigs of thyme
  • 3 tsp fennel seeds, toasted (optional)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon fine sea salt
  • rapeseed oil, to fry

For the sauce

  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Small pinch chilli flakes
  • 450g fresh tomatoes
  • 600g (1.5 tins) good quality chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbs fresh oregano, finely chopped

To Serve

  • cooked pearl barley
  • steamed greens, or sautéed broccoli
  • toast almonds

For the sauce

  1. Heat half the oil in a large saucepan and sweat the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and chilli on a medium heat for about 15 minutes.
  2. When transparent, add the fresh tomatoes and the rest of the oil and cook on a low-medium heat for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the tinned tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to bubble on the lowest heat for about 1 hour.
  4. Turn off the heat and add the oregano and basil.
  5. Taste and see if it needs any sugar. When you're pleased with the taste, blend together with a hand blender or in a food blender.

For the meatballs

  1. Pour the milk into a shallow bowl and add the bread.
  2. Set aside to soften for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add all the other ingredients, except for the oil, into a large bowl, season well, and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.
  4. Mash the bread into a milky paste with a fork and then add it to meatball mixture and mix in well.
  5. Shape the mixture into balls and add another 2 tbsp olive oil to the pan, and then fry the meatballs in batches until nicely golden all over, then turn down the heat and fry more gently until cooked through.

Serve a mound of pearl barley or if you prefer, mash. Add a few meatballs and top with the hot tomato sauce. Garnish with some toasted almonds

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