“Why do we call them meatballs when there’s no meat in them?”
A fair question, from my daughter one day as I stood in the kitchen making one of the family’s favourite meals—spaghetti with meatballs.
Of course, as vegetarians, our meatballs contain no animal muscle tissue whatsoever. Their effect on the gustatory pleasure centres is comparable to a good traditional meatball, though, so the name sticks.
When I was breast feeding my son (13 years ago!), there were very few foods I could eat without causing him colic. It took eight weeks of round-the-clock screaming for me to work this out, and when I finally got him to stop howling by reducing my diet to nothing but carrots, rice and potatoes for a week, I was loath to add anything back in, lest the crying (his and mine) resume. I needed a source of protein, though, and eventually found that tofu was ‘safe’. The problem was that I wasn’t terribly fond of tofu. I knew it could be delicious, because I’d eaten some incredible tofu dishes made by a friend. I rang her up and begged her to send some recipes. One of the recipes she sent was for tofu meatballs.
Those meatballs (minus about half their ingredients) kept me alive for that year of breast feeding. When I was through nursing and was able to add back into the recipe the onions, mustard, and peppers that would have caused my son grief, they stayed on the menu. They are one of those foods that induces overeating. My husband admits that he refrains from using tofu for stir fries or other dishes in the hope that I’ll make meatballs.
I don’t know where this recipe originally came from, and I would love to cite the source. If you recognise it and can enlighten me, please do so!
Mix together in a large bowl:
500g firm tofu, crumbled
1 grated carrot
1 onion, finely chopped (I sauté the onion first—we prefer the flavour that way)
1 green pepper, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
¾ cup finely ground walnuts
1 c bread crumbs
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 ½ Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp ground fennel
1 ½ tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
ground black pepper to taste
Form into small balls and place on an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 190°C for about 30 minutes, or until beginning to brown. Serve with a simple tomato sauce over pasta.