For a long time goats were my favorite animals. My husband was quite astounded when he first heard me make this statement because I was eating a goat curry at the time. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t just love eating goat, I truly love seeing goats on a farm, feeding them grass out of my hand – they look happy and healthy. This is transferred to their meat – it just tastes better and I feel happy to eat it. There is no point denying where meat comes from – it was once an animal, however I want to make sure that I am eating meat from an animal that has lead as natural a life as possible.
Lately I have fallen in love with pigs, which I think started when I saw them living on an agriturismo in Friuli in north-eastern Italy. They are my new favorite animal. The family at the agriturismo bred a few pigs each year and that would supply more than enough sausages, salame and prosciutto to feed the family and the agriturismo guests for the year. With this in mind, I was on a quest to buy pork from pigs that had been grown on a farm and raised as ethically and naturally as possible. It is nearly impossible to find this type of meat in supermarkets or your average butcher shop. Hence I have been visiting Farmer’s markets regularly to buy any organic meat, including pork mince, that I have not been able to find at the Victoria Market.
Organic and free-range just taste better. It is better for the planet and better for us. It costs more, but this reflects the price of what it costs to ethically raise an animal. And I am more than happy to eat it less often. At the Fairfield farmer’s market yesterday I bought just over half a kilo of free range pork mince and made some delightful meat balls with a lemon and thyme sauce. I found the recipe here and made only minor changes (see my version below). It was so light and lemony. I served them on a bed of creamy potato mash. The thyme and sage were from my terrace garden, the lemons from a friend’s tree and the potatoes were also from the farmer’s market. The meal was delicious and fitting for such fine organic produce.
Pork meatballs with lemon and thyme
500g pork mince
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 cup one day old sourdough bread, torn into tiny pieces
1/2 cup of milk
1/4 cup parmigiano cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon sage leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, stalks discarded
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
For the lemon thyme sauce:
3/4 cup chicken stock (I used home made)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
Thyme stems with leaves for garnish
Lemon zest for garnish
Soak the bread in milk and set aside. Sauté the onion with a splash of olive oil until soft and translucent. Let it cool.
Place the pork mince, onion, drained bread, parmigiano, herbs, salt, pepper, egg and bread into a large bowl. Mix with your hands until all the ingredients are evenly mixed. Form small meatballs, making sure you dip your hands in a bit of water before forming the ball (it makes them stick together). You can make the meatballs up to 24 hours ahead and store in the fridge.
Place a splash of olive oil in a large non-stick frypan (that will fit all the meatballs in a single layer) and cook on medium heat. Turn them over carefully once they have browned on one side. It should take about 8 minutes to cook the meatballs, a bit longer if they are larger, less if they are smaller. Set the cooked meatballs to one side.
Deglaze the pan with the wine and stock (don’t throw out all the juicy remnants from the cooking of the meatballs!). Turn the heat up and once it starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until it has reduced by over half. Add the lemon juice and then place the meatballs in the frying pan. Cook for another 15 or so minutes at medium to low heat, turning the meatballs half way through. They should be warmed through and covered with lovely lemony sauce.
I served the meatballs on a bed of mash potato. Garnish with finely sliced lemon zest and fresh thyme. Serve with a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio and a green salad.