The Boy goes to quite a fancy nursery. Not that you’d know it from talking to him.
“How was school today?”
“Not school, NURSERY.”
“Sorry, nursery. What did you do?”
“Did you talk to anyone?”
“Not even Jack?” (His partner in so many crimes I’ve lost count).
“Did you do any drawing, or singing?”
“Mummy, that’s ENOUGH! NO MORE QUESTIONS!”
Shards of information leak through however; the other night he was bobbing up and down in his bed, feet at a funny angle, knees bent. “Pleeee-ay... pleee-ay” he said, with every bob. “Plie?” I asked. He rolled his eyes, and continued to bob.
“Are you doing dance at school?”
“Not dance, BALLET.”
He gets sent home with things they’ve baked (weird, inedible, but cute), and made (weird, inedible, rarely cute, often looking like a turd); we get invited to parents’ evenings and coffee mornings; we get a weekly newsletter, which shocks me with the extent of their activities. It’s a great
school NURSERY. I love it.
Or rather, loved it. Until they sent him home last week with a bug.
I know I know that it’s inevitable, but dammit, we are all SO SO SICK as a result. High temperature, fever, vomiting, more fever, hacking cough ALL NIGHT LONG... I am on day five, the Boy on day six. The two of us spent the weekend in my bed in our pyjamas watching Cbeebies, and issuing orders (him, to me: wipe-my-nose, move-your-leg, more-Octonauts etc). And then on Sunday night the Girl woke up, scalding hot, and covered in vomit. Now the three of us are in my bed, which is strewn with used tissues, damp clothes, and sticky Calpol spoons. We haven’t managed to get her addicted to CBeebies yet, so I have had to rouse self from my febrile cocoon and look after her. If I’ve made it sound a bit like a Little House on the Prairie idyll, be assured: when the sun goes down, the wolves come out. The Boy is awake every ten minutes, coughing himself into hysteria, moaning and groaning and dry-retching; last night when nobody had raced to him within three seconds of him wakening, he lay there shouting “Somebody? Anybody! HELP ME...” Meanwhile the Girl is clinging to my chest like a baked, panting mollusc, occasionally screeching in horror and disgust when she happens upon her sticky nose (the whole body-effluent thing is hitting her hard.)
I have no appetite, so this week’s recipe is that which should have been posted last week. It was very very very tasty, even if the thought of it now has me reaching for my
baking sick bowl.
Yes, it’s spaghetti and meat-balls! Oh alright then, it’s not really. This started life as baked courgettes balls (polpettes, in fact) a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (yes, him again) recipe I took from Esther at Recipe Rifle, and then tweaked for full pasta-and-tomato-sauce enjoyment. It really has quite a meaty texture – to my veggified tastebuds at least – and the Man was near delirious with excitement when he tasted them.
“It’s meat!” he cried.
“Not meat, COURGETTES”, I responded, disdainfully.
Spaghetti with Courgette “Meat” Balls and Tomato Sauce.
The meatballs in this are baked blobs of courgette-batter – which doesn’t sound terribly appealing, but actually are fabulous. Hugh (and Esther)’s original recipe calls for lemon zest – which works brilliantly if eating the blobs on their own, but doesn’t really sit well if you’re trying to pass them off as meat. So, if you’re making the polpettes as a stand alone – or if you like your meatballs with a bit of citrus to them - then add the zest of half a lemon to the ingredients. The original recipe also calls for mozzarella – which works nicely in the meat-balls, but isn’t crucial; if you don’t have any, just add an extra tablespoon each of breadcrumbs and hard cheese.
Any recipe that calls for three distinct steps – in this case, making the meatballs, making the sauce, and cooking the pasta – is usually dismissed by me as an unnecessary pain in the arse. However, while somewhat more fiddly than your bog-standard two-step pasta dish, it’s not at all time-consuming: once assembled, the balls are baked, not fried, freeing you up to make a quick tomato sauce, and put some pasta on to cook. Honestly, it’s no more than 30 mins from start to finish. Admittedly tho, it does create a bit more washing up than I’d like.
You Need: (for 2, with leftovers for hot angry children)
- Three courgettes (Hugh says dice them finely; I prefer to grate them directly into the pan. Easier and quicker.)
- A dash of oil.
- A clove of garlic, chopped / crushed
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons hard cheese (cheddar or parmesan)
- 50g breadcrumbs
- ½ ball of mozzarella, finely diced.
Tomato sauce: (You mean you don’t have some already in the freezer? Ppppphhhh....)
- More oil
- Another clove of garlic
- A tin of plum tomatoes
Enough pasta – preferably long (spaghetti, linguini) - for two (or three).
First make the courgette balls. Heat the oven to 200c / 400f / 6gas, and either grease a baking sheet or line with parchment.
Heat a couple of glugs of oil in a deep pan, and grate the courgettes directly into it. Add the sliced / crushed garlic. Leave to cook over a medium heat for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat, and leave to cool for a few minutes while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.
Put all the other meatball ingredients in the pan, adding the egg last. It should be fairly sticky and gloopy.
Use a tablespoon to measure out whatever size balls you want. Poy-son-olly, I like my pretend meatballs small and quite crunchy (and got about 15 of such from the above quantities). However, each to their own. Place on the baking tray a couple of centimetres apart, and bung in the oven. Cooking time depends on the size of the balls: give larger ones about 15 mins, smaller only need 10 or so.
When they’re browned and looking crispy, they’re done.
Now – you can either eat on their own, or dump into the pan of tomato sauce you cleverly just whipped up and serve with pasta.
(Cleverly-whipped-up tomato sauce:
Place oil and sliced garlic in a pan, and place over a low heat until the garlic starts to sizzle (and if you’re super
anal organised, you can use the courgettes pan which you’ve already washed...) Add a tin of plum tomatoes, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon (or whatever. No need to be technical.) Stir, increase heat, bring to the boil, then reduce heat and leave to simmer until you need the sauce. If you want to get fancy with basil / pesto etc, by all means do.)
Meanwhile, put the pasta on to boil, and assemble all three components in whatever fancy way you like.
Serve with Calpol, sippy-cups full of diluted appul-joooos, and CBeebies.