What did the Romans do for us?
They left behind some great recipe ideas that can be cooked indoors or outside over fire!
Roman meatballs with chard and polenta
Imagine my joy when I carried out my research and found out that the Romans loved to use mincemeat in their meals! There is some indication that they did indeed invent the first burger, way before certain fast-food chains. This recipe takes advantage of some of the herbs that would have been available at the time and the deliciously stunning Swiss Chard.
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
500g minced meat
(lamb, pork or beef- minimum 10% fat ideally)
Herb and spice mix
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp garlic granules
1tsp smoked paprika
1tsp ground fennel
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
200g Swiss Chard
150g polenta or maize meal.
Parmesan cheese (to finish)
In a large mixing bowl add the herbs, spices and honey to the minced meat and mix thoroughly by hand.
Shape the meat into small balls (2cm) and set aside.
Next separate the stalks from the leaves of the Swiss Chard and cut said stalks into 2cm long pieces, and shred the leaves.
Place the stalks into boiling water and simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Pour the oil into a hot large frying pan or skillet and fry the meatballs for about 10-15 minutes until cooked, stirring carefully.
While the meatballs are cooking boil the polenta in about 600ml of water for about 10 minutes, and as the grains start to thicken grate about 50g parmesan and generously grind some pepper to taste.
Once the meatballs have cooked add the boiled stems, remaining herbs and chard leaves, cook for another minute or so stirring throughout.
Finish with an extra grating of parmesan and a dash more pepper.
Serve and enjoy!
(Makes about 20)
A good handful of fresh nettle heads
Quite simply one of the most fun and easy things to cook, these delightful flatbreads take advantage of the very tasty young nettles in early spring. They are also a good way for children (and adults!) to enjoy and understand this plant a little better. The other advantage it has is that it is easily identifiable and grows pretty much everywhere.
Picking the nettles
Firstly avoid nettles that are near main roads, they may pick up a number of pollutants from passing traffic or animals. If you have your own patch in the garden or school, all the better!
Gloves are optional, the young tender leaves that are of interest have not yet developed the hairs that sting- these also have more flavour. Try an pick the light green tips of plants that are ideally at least 3 feet off of the ground. By pinching the tips confidently you are unlikely to get stung, the same tips can of course be eaten raw.
The flatbreads can be cooked over hot embers, skillet or large frying pan, the hotter the better!
1. Mix the flour and water together to form a dough. Do not knead- yet!
2. Shred/slice the nettle leaves into small pieces and mix this in with the dough, and then knead for a minute or two.
3. Ideally let the dough rest for 30 minutes in an airtight container. It will not rise, but the proteins in the flour will autolyse making it stronger to work with.
4. Separate the dough into small (30-40g) balls, then stretch each one by hand or a rolling pin to make them as flat and thin as possible.
5, Cook the flatbreads on the hot pan or embers 3-30 seconds per side depending on heat and enjoy on their own or with honey for an authentic Roman flavour!