Braised Eggplant, Tomatoes and Meatballs

11:30 am on 26 March 2012

I would recommend that you serve a small portion of cooked polenta , rice or mashed potato as a side with this dish and maybe a simple leaf salad too.


  • 540 g (1 lb 3 oz) minced (ground) beef
  • 1 free-range or organic egg
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely crushed
  • fine sea salt and freshly
  • ground black pepper
  • 5 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and chopped
  • 5 sprigs oregano, leaves picked and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salted baby capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 8-12 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 50 ml (1 2/3 fl oz) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons polenta


  • 100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz) olive oil
  • 1 large eggplant (aubergine) (about 400 g/14 oz), cut into 8 wedges and salted for 5 minutes, then patted dry with paper towel
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 200 g (7 oz) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
  • 100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz) red wine vinegar
  • 400 g (14 oz) tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 large handful of basil leaves, shredded
  • finely grated parmesan, to serve


For the meatballs, place all the ingredients, except the polenta, in a large bowl and beat quite hard using a massaging action with your hands until the mixture comes together and all the ingredients are distributed evenly throughout. Now mix in the polenta.

Take about 35-40 g (11/4-11/2 oz) of meat in your hands, roll into a ball and place on a tray. Take each meatball and very roughly throw between your hands to tenderize the meat, then re-roll into neat balls. This also helps them keep their shape during the cooking process.  Place back on the tray.

For the braise, heat 50 ml (12/3 fl oz) of the olive oil in a large saucepan (measuring about 30 cm diameter by 15 cm deep/12 x 6 inches) over medium heat. Add nine of the meatballs and sauté for about 30 seconds each side until browned. Place the meatballs on a plate for later. Repeat with the remaining meatballs.

Add 25 ml (3/4 fl oz) of olive oil to the same pan, add half of the eggplant and fry. Remove from the pan, place on a different plate and reserve for later. Repeat with the remaining olive oil and eggplant.

Keep the heat consistent all the time to retain heat in the saucepan.

Add the onion to the same pan and sweat down a little until soft. Add the halved tomatoes and cook out a little for 4 minutes. Now add the sugar and vinegar and deglaze the pan.

Add the tinned tomatoes and 200 ml (7 fl oz) of water and bring to the boil. Add the eggplant, cover with a lid, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes.

Add the meatballs and carefully stir them into the sauce. Turn the heat down to low, cover again and cook for 10 minutes.

To serve, scatter over the basil and parmesan and place the pan in the middle of the table with a large serving spoon.

John Hawkesby’s wine recommendation

Trinity Hill 2010

Te Awa 'Left Field' 2009



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