Six O’Clock Solution: ‘Lazy’ beef meatballs are packed with flavour

Celery root might be ugly, but it provides the punch for this easy, make-ahead dinner.

Beef meatballs with lemon and celery root from Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi. Appetite by Random House

Yotam Ottolenghi puts this dish in his “lazy” category, because you put it together, then relax while it cooks. Comfort food is another term. It’s warming, easy to eat, packed with flavour, requires little cleanup, and can be made a day or so ahead and reheated. Two ingredients give it punch: the ugly, celery-flavoured root also called celeriac, and fennel seeds. The Jerusalem-born chef, celebrated both for his London restaurants and lively cookbooks, includes it in his latest book, Ottolenghi Simple (Appetite by Random House, $42). Serve this dish with couscous or rice, and a little Greek-style yogurt. A beautiful, well-written book, it has an easy-reading layout and exceptional photographs by Jonathan Lovekin.

Beef meatballs with lemon and celery root

Serves 4

¾ pound (350 to 400 g) ground beef

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 cups (750 mL) fresh, white breadcrumbs

1 cup (250 mL) flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus sprigs for trim

1 large egg, beaten

¾ teaspoon (4 mL) ground allspice

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil

1 medium celery root, peeled, in 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes

3 garlic cloves, crushed

½ teaspoon (2 mL) ground turmeric

1-1/2 teaspoons (7 mL) fennel seeds, crushed

1 teaspoon (5 mL) sweet smoked paprika

2 cups (500 mL) chicken stock

3-1/2 tablespoons (50 mL) lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine the beef, onion, breadcrumbs, parsley, egg, allspice, ½ teaspoon (2 mL) salt, and some pepper. Using your hands, mix well and form into about 20 balls about 1-1/2 inches (4 cm) in diameter.

In a large, heavy frying pan with a lid, heat oil over medium-high heat and sear meatballs for about five minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Set aside meatballs on a plate.

Add celery root, garlic, turmeric, fennel and paprika to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for two minutes, until the garlic is golden and spices are aromatic. Be careful not to burn the ingredients.

Return meatballs to the pan and add stock, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon (2 mL) salt, and some pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat to low, cover and simmer mixture for 30 minutes.

Remove lid and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Remove pan from heat and let stand five to 10 minutes. Serve, sprinkled with more parsley. (Dish may be cooled and refrigerated, covered, for up to two days, then reheated.)

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