My friend Cat recently made these, and foxed her friends because she’s vegan, and these looked a lot like meat in her post. After some confusion, and explaining, the recipe for these rather lovely aubergine and olive balls was shared. Cat’s was from the Abel & Cole recipe book, and the one I’d seen was from the superb website of Supergoldenbakes. Was I going to have a go? A recipe with olives and aubergines? Hell yes.
This is how I made it, with a few variations as I didn’t have the bread called for in the original recipe, or the herbs. I did have matzoh water biscuits, and dried soy bean pulp, from the tofu making experiment I’d done earlier in the day. I am aware that not everyone will have those on hand though!
I just served mine with the sauce, for a light dinner, but if you love pasta, then cook your favourite kind and toss that in with the tomato sauce to serve up as a more substantial dinner.
2 medium aubergines cut into small cubes
1 medium red onion, finely chopped (I actually used 3 very large Turkish spring onions that were looking at me reproachfully from the veg rack)
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
A handful green pitted olives – I had Spanish marinated ones, and they are quite punchy and very flavourful
100 g | 3.5oz breadcrumbs (as I had no bread, I used 60g water biscuits and 40g dried okara)
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbs pesto (mine was not vegan, but the parmesan in it was made with vegetarian rennet)
1 tsp dried oregano
zest of 1 lemon
olive oil to fry as needed
To make the nonmeat balls, heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan. Add the onions, cubed aubergines and a pinch of salt. Fry, stirring with a spoon, for a good five minutes.
Add the garlic and continue to cook until the aubergines are nicely coloured and both they and the garlic have softened down a bit.
Blitz the bread (or crackers and okara) in a food processor with the olives until you have fine crumbs and the olives are finely chopped.
Add the aubergines, balsamic vinegar, pesto and lemon zest and pulse until everything comes together. Taste and season.
If it seems too dry, add a tbs of olive oil and blitz again. It should form a sort of dough ball.
Form into little balls with the aid of a cookie scoop to portion out, and your hands to roll them smooth and then leave them to sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up.
Make the tomato sauce while they are chilling.
1 can good quality chopped tomatoes (I love Cirio, or Mutti)
2 tbs olive oil
1 jarred chargrilled red pepper cut into strips (only if you want)
2 tbs pesto
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
Just simmer all the above ingredients together until the sauce is heated through and has thickened slightly.
Cook them balls!
Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Fry the 'meatballs' in batches until nicely coloured all over. You will need to add more olive oil if the pan gets too dry and do be gentle with the 'meatballs' – they are fragile. In the end I actually put mine in the oven, as my non stick wasn’t as non stick as claimed, and when I tried to turn them, the nice crunchy layer got left on the pan.
The smell of the garlic, lemon and olives wafting around the kitchen was just gorgeous, and I was quite impatient waiting for them to cook, but patience usually pays off, and it really did in this case.
I served 5 of them on top of my sauce, with a good dollop of pesto. After I’d eaten them, and sworn to make them again, I cooked the rest off, and they will serve as lunch or dinner for a couple of days. I think they would be excellent stuffed into warmed pita bread with salad and houmous.