Venison Meatballs

Now that it’s officially autumn, our minds (and stomachs) are turning towards our favourite winter warmers. Try this delicious meatball recipe by Tom Hishon, owner of the popular Auckland eatery Orphans Kitchen, which features delicious farm-raised venison mince and using good, old-fashioned Worcestershire sauce, grainy mustard and fresh herbs.  

For the meatballs:

500g Venison mince
1 large shallot
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 egg
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 large shallot
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Cracked pepper
5 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Freshly ground sea salt
50ml rice bran oil, or similar

For the meatball sauce:

8 small vine-ripened tomatoes
Dash of olive oil
Freshly ground sea salt
5 cloves of garlic
1 shallot
½ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon red chilli flakes
1 bay leaf
¾ cup white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup of water

Heat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. 

Bring the mince to room temperature by placing it covered on the bench. Finely dice the shallot and fresh rosemary leaves together then set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the egg, Worcestershire sauce and the two mustards together. Add the diced shallot and rosemary mix. Grind in a liberal amount of freshly cracked pepper and then whisk to incorporate all the flavours.

With clean hands, massage the mince into the herb, spice, mustard and egg mixture then once combined to a smooth consistency, add the bread crumbs. Mix together well with your hands.

Now, time to roll. Take a generous amount of meat in the palm of your hand and roll in a circular motion with the other hand until you have a nice, round meatball. Place each ball on an oiled baking tray and repeat until the bowl is empty. You should finish with around 6 – 7 meatballs.   Cover and refrigerate the tray while you make the sauce.

Rub the whole tomatoes with a small amount of olive oil and season with salt. Place into a baking dish and cook in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until a good colour is established.  Set aside the tray.

Make more meatballs to have for lunch the next day!

Meantime, slice the cloves of garlic and dice the shallot.  In a pot, add the olive oil, chilli flakes, bay leaf, garlic and shallot and cook over a low to medium heat to infuse, without burning. 

After a few minutes, add the white wine then increase the heat to high to evaporate the alcohol. Reduce the wine by half then stir in the tomato paste, water and the vine tomatoes from the oven which you can now turn down to 100 degrees Celcius for the final finish on the meatballs and sauce.

Simmer the sauce over a low heat for 10 minutes or until a desired sauce consistency is reached.  Season as desired and keep in a warm place, ready to pour over the meatballs. 

To cook the meatballs, take a heavy-based skillet or non-stick fry pan to a medium high heat. Season the bottom of the pan with salt and the rice bran oil to avoid sticking. This will also create a flavoursome crust.

Place the meatballs one by one into the hot pan, seasoning the top with salt. Cooking times will vary depending on your stovetop and pan. Focus on establishing a good, dark colour before turning the meatballs. Once coloured on all sides take out of the pan and place into the oven dish which cooked the tomatoes.

Pour your tomato sauce over the top of the meatballs and cook in the 100 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Tom’s tips:

  • With the ¾ cup white wine for the meatball sauce, Pinot Gris is the most suitable drop, although if you prefer red wine, feel free to swap out.
  • Roll the meatballs quite large so they stay nice and juicy in the centre. 
  • This dish is super versatile and is great matched with a crusty ciabatta, al dente pasta and some steamed greens or a simple salad. 
  • I always make a few extra meatballs for lunch the next day.
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