Served with mashed potatoes and minted peas and mushrooms. A rather British supper.
I was actually looking in Tom Kerridge’s 2014 cookbook “Best Ever Dishes” for a recipe for a ragu bolognese (one can simply not have enough of them, but more on that in a next post 😁) but when I found that recipe, I saw overleaf the very appealing recipe for pork meatballs in brown ale gravy.
I have a couple of Tom’s cookbooks on my shelf, and I supposed that the majority of his recipes are too rooted in British heritage and pub culture to be able to fully appeal to me as a Dutchman. That being said, there are always some fantastic recipes and cooking techniques in them (in 2011, The Hand and Flowers became the first pub to receive two stars in the Michelin Guide…) and this is one of them. You can find an excellent adaptation of this recipe over at supergoldenbakes.com.
What worked and what didn’t:
I used beef mince instead of pork, but despite the lower fat content, the meatballs were delicate and succulent due to the oven roasting. They were full of flavor due to the herbs and English mustard, and they worked well with the intense gravy.
The brown ale gravy was quite an adventure to make: boiling down the brown ale (I used a Belgian Leffe) – with the skin-on garlic and shallots and rosemary sprigs – to a glaze and then adding the vegetable stock and reduce again. After putting it through a fine sieve, you have an already delicious vegetarian gravy. After that, the gravy is obviously not so vegetarian anymore as it needs to be added to the pan of meatballs before that was put into the oven. Nevertheless, the gravy’s flavor intensified significantly due to further reduction (rather than due to the incorporation of the meat juices). Definitely, a recipe to remember to have a proper alternative for those dreadful gravies from a packet!
The peas are super easy too: just needed to add fresh peas to some onions that were sweated off in butter, pour in the stock and add the mushrooms (I used sliced chestnut mushrooms) until cooked and finish off with a couple of tablespoons of finely chopped mint. I actually combined the leftovers to make a yummy mash (“stamppot”).
The recipe was easy to follow, and the measures of ingredients work well together. It serves 4 to 6.
Tom’s suggested cooling of the seasoned meat (at least 1 hour) and shaped meatballs (about 30 minutes) worked: they held their shape during cooking. But it was not significantly better than the 30 minutes I usually put the seasoned mince in the fridge. Therefore, I would not bother with that additional hour of cooling next time.
In hindsight, for the gravy, I would suggest following supergoldenbakes’ adaptation to the recipe to add a couple of teaspoons of cornflour (cornstarch) diluted in a little cold water to the gravy to bind it a bit more. However, due to the glazing and sugar content in the brown ale, I don’t recommend to add any additional sugar.
Verdict: 9/10; Will definitely be made again.