Times where your world gets shaken and you discover everything you’re capable of, even though the weather is cold and a bit too cloudy for your liking. These are the times where you need to find ways to de-stress, unwind, relax and get warm.
Making vegetarian meatballs is one of those ways, almost therapeutic in it’s mashing and binding. Having the oven on also makes the house that bit warmer, and a bubbling pan gives off hope of warmer days.
This is oh so much more than just a simple meal.
These vegetarian meatballs are absolutely delicious.
They’re hearty, meat-y, flavoursome, and hold together perfectly. Simmered in the tomato sauce with the salty capers and olives, and eaten with fluffy lemon-y quinoa, makes this a pretty irresistible and satisfying dish.
I used tomato sauce from a jar for this, and I have absolutely no shame.
Since the veggie meatballs are made from scratch, I feel we deserve the short cut and use that extra time to give ourselves a well-deserved break.
These vegetarian “meatballs” keep very well in the fridge, so they’re perfect to keep handy for those mid-week dinners. Use them in sandwiches to make meatball subs, add to pasta, eat with rice, or on their own with a big pile of greens.
I usually re-heat mine either in the oven or in a pan, depending on my mood and how much time I have.
Aubergine (Eggplant) Vegetarian "Meatballs" with Lemon-y Quinoa
1 aubergine (eggplant), chopped into 2cm / 0.75” cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon mixed italian herbs
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 egg or 1 chia egg (1 tablespoon chia seeds + 3 tablespoons water, set for 10 minutes)
3 tablespoons finely chopped carrots
4½ tablespoons buckwheat flour
1½ tablespoons rolled oats
3 tablespoons ricotta or cottage cheese
1 tablespoon psyllium husk
1 jar tomato sauce of choice (look for sugar free varieties)
1 tablespoon capers
¼ cup chopped black olives
Coconut or olive oil, for cooking
For the Quinoa
1 cup quinoa, soaked overnight if possible
1 clove garlic, minced
Sea salt, to taste
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 teaspoon Italian herbs
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
For the “Meatballs”
Start by placing your chopped aubergine (eggplant) in a colander over a bowl or sink and tossing with the 1 teaspoon of salt. Leave to “sweat” for 30 minutes then rinse and pat dry before using. This is optional, but helps get rid of any bitterness and also keeps it from getting soggy and oily in the pan. If you’re short for time or your aubergine (eggplant) is small and fresh, skip it.*
Preheat your oven to 185ºC/365ºF and lightly grease or line a baking tray.
Heat ½ tablespoon of oil in skillet over low-medium heat and fry your onion and garlic for 1 minute before adding your aubergine (eggplant) along with your herbs, spices, and black pepper. Add ¼ cup water and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender - about 10 minutes - adding more water if necessary
Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl, and mash with a fork until mushy. Stir in the egg or chia egg, carrots, buckwheat flour, oats, ricotta and psyllium husk until combined.
Scoop out ½ tablespoon of the mixture and, with damp hands, roll into a ball and place on the baking tray. Repeat until all the mixture has been used. Place meatballs in the fridge for 10 minutes to set.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until browned.
When your meatballs are almost done, heat your tomato sauce in the skillet you used along with the capers and olives.
Place the cooked meatballs into the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes.
Serve hot with the quinoa, some fresh lemon slices, and extra chopped parsley on top.
For the Quinoa
If soaking quinoa, place in a bowl and cover with filtered water along with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar. Leave at room temperature overnight. Once ready to use, drain and thoroughly rinse. If not soaking, thoroughly rinse quinoa before using.
Heat ½ tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over low-medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute before adding the quinoa. Cook the quinoa and garlic together until the water has evaporated and the quinoa starts to slightly toast. Add lemon juice along with 1 cup of water (1¼ if un-soaked) and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until water is completely absorbed, around 10-13 minutes for soaked and 15-20 for un-soaked.
Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Before serving fluff quinoa with a fork and stir in remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust any seasoning. Serve warm.
*If you haven’t salted the eggplant before cooking, add in some salt along with the spices.
VEGAN - use tofu instead of ricotta and use the chia egg method.
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Hi, I'm Teffy, a qualified Nutritionist and avid foodie. This blog is all about inspiring a balanced life through delicious and wholesome foods, with not a diet in sight. Healthy eating shouldn't be hard and stressful, it should be easy and fun - Working with my clients they are constantly amazed that yes, food can taste great AND be good for you!