VEGETABLE POLPETTE

My mission to smuggle more vegetables into my son continues and with every moderate success, my determination grows. Vegetable Polpette are basically a delicious, cheese and veggie-laced gooey ball of goodness. A veggie meatball if you like. They’re the perfect vehicle for that veg you bought with the intention of cooking something nutritious with it but days later remains lurking, at the bottom of your fridge, goading you every time you walk by.

Archie isn’t great with pick-and-mix style meals so I’m trying encourage him to explore new flavours, textures and styles of eating. So, this week the poor kid’s had his usual carb and sauce faves replaced with D-I-Y ‘we CAN build it’ (thanks to Bob the Builder for that ever versatile mantra) dinners. Last night in hindsight wasn’t the best time to try something new. I was exhausted having had a really challenging day on Kidchup launch prep and Archie had had an extra long day digging, crashing bikes and slinging mud in the mud kitchen at nursery. However, I was determined we’d eat dinner together and it would be Vegetable Polpette. So, hot and bothered I set about cooking in the very small time frame I had.

The Polpette take about half an hour to make from scratch and are really versatile. I’ve adapted them from the River Cottage Baby and Toddler cookbook and you can basically put whatever you like in them as long as you keep aubergine or courgette (as per the original recipe) in the base to help keep it moist and bind it all together. Bacon and sweetcorn would make great additions. There’s something pretty cathartic about squishing all the ingredients together after a tough day! This is also a great activity to get the kids involved in, the messier the better. I find Archie is always more excited about eating something he’s helped make and it’s good for me to loosen up and be less of a control freak in the kitchen.

Ingredients:

1 TBSP of Rapeseed oil

1 Red pepper

1 Aubergine

Pinch of dried or fresh oregano

Pinch of salt/black pepper

A cube of frozen spinach or a handful of chopped fresh stuff if you have it

72g Mozzarella (I used the little balls as no chopping involved when you’re in a rush)

1 Clove of garlic finely chopped

35g freshly grated parmesan

100g Peitit pois

50g Breadcrumbs

1 Medium free range egg lightly beaten

Squeeze of lemon juice

1. Turn your oven on to 200C

2. Finely dice the red pepper and aubergine. Put the oil into a large frying pan over a medium heat then add the pepper, aubergine, pinch of salt and oregano and fry until soft – roughly 15 mins. Then set aside to cool.

3. Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper ready for your Polpette

4. Put the rest of your ingredients in a large bowl and then add the fried pepper mix (it’s ok if it’s still warm). Now this is the fun bit, with clean hands really work the mixture until it's completely mixed. Don’t be afraid to give it a good squeeze with your hands to make sure all the flavours are combined and tear up the mozzarella so it’s evenly distributed

5. Using your hands make walnut sized balls of the mixture and put them on the baking tray. Put this into the middle of your oven for roughly 15 minutes until golden - Don’t over do it or they’ll dry out.

For kids, you can serve these with some hummus or a dollop of ketchup, some pitta and some salad on the side.

Full disclosure: I had moderate success with these when it came to Archie. Dinner was half an hour late, he had a thousand-yard stare by the time we sat down and I was frazzled and a bit lacking in patience after rushing round the kitchen like a mad woman. They mostly became a vehicle for him to pile Kidchup into his mouth and ignore the salad and dips I’d lovingly made from scratch (I swear he KNOWS when I’ve spent hours toiling over chickpeas) but he did happily eat one before hitting the wall. I’d recommend trying these on veg adverse toddlers when you’re not in a rush/full of expectation.

I, on the other hand, loved them squished warm into flat bread with smashed avocado, tzatziki and salad.