Today is the day I’ve been waiting for. I’m forever waiting for reason to bring up Bill Murray, but this one was just handed to me on a silver platter:
Make / eat some thing inspired by a book or film
You got it MoFo gods. Ever heard of a little film called Meatballs?
I said film, dammit!
Meatballs is an early Bill film, about a pretty average summer camp at which he plays a camp counsellor. It’s certainly not award-winning, it’s more like a film you’d expect to see at midday on free to air TV when you’re at home sick, but hey, for what it is it’s pretty amazing. And did I mention Bill Murray? He is hilarious and he makes everything great. The end.
It doesn’t take too much imagination to guess what dish was inspired by this one. Let’s call them ‘cheatballs’, as they certainly ain’t meat.
Nope, these bad boys are made with a combination of tempeh, walnuts and oats – among other goodies. They are very similar to the filling of my sausage rolls – I like the idea of tempeh, but texturally and taste wise prefer it in things, rather than just in chunks by itself.
For this recipe I’ve baked the meatballs, but I’m sure they will work just as well if you pan fry them so do whatever works best for you.
Tempeh Cheatballs with Marinara Sauce
(makes about 24)
1 tsp oil
1 small brown onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
2Tbsp flax meal + ¼ cup water
½ cup walnuts, pulsed in food processor to crumbs
½ cup oats, pulsed a few times in food processor to resemble crumbs
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp thyme
¼ cup flat leaf parsley
¼ cup nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp chili powder (optional)
1 tsp oil
1 small brown onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup red wine (optional)
800g tinned tomatoes
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
2 Tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper
If you plan to bake them, preheat the oven to 200C and line a tray with baking paper.
In a small bowl, combine flax meal and water and set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and add onion. Saute until translucent – a couple of minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.
Crumble the tempeh with your hands into the bowl along with the onion and garlic. Add flax mix and remaining ingredients and mix well to combine. If you’d prefer a smoother texture, feel free to try doing this in a food processor, but for this kind of thing I personally prefer a bit of chunkiness. The mix should come together, and while it is a bit sticky, you should be able to handle it without too much mess. If it’s too sticky, try adding some more oats.
Get heaped teaspoons of mix and roll into balls, placing each one on the prepared tray. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn over (the best you can with a spherical object) and cook for a further 10 minutes. You’ll see the balls become visibly browner.
While they’re cooking, prepare the sauce – heat oil in a pot over medium heat and saute onion until translucent. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add wine, basil and oregano and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously, until most of the wine has evaporated.
Add tomatoes and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and stir in tomato paste, and season with salt and pepper. Since I left the cheatballs chunky, I popped the sauce in the blender and gave it a quick whizz until it was smooth. Return to pot and add cheatballs. Eat as is, or serve over spaghetti with some vegan parmesan (classic!)