This dish goes with pasta, rice, roasted vegetables, anything really! The rice and chickpea flour based meatballs can also be frozen, making them perfect for last-minute dinners. You can also turn them into burger patties for your next barbecue. "Picada de alemendra" translates to chopped almonds which refers to the crispy, toasted almond and sourdough bread pieces that are stirred into the sauce.
Albóndigas con Picada de Almendra: Spanish Meatballs [Vegan, Gluten-Free]
For the Meatballs:
- 1 cup brown rice
- Olive oil, for shallow-frying
- 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
- 3.5 ounces instant oats, blitzed in a food processor until they resemble a rough flour (gluten-free if necessary)
- 1/2 cup flour, plus extra if needed (gluten-free if need)
- 1/2 cup canned brown lentils
- 1/2 cup chickpea flour
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- Small handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- Small handful basil, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
- Olive oil spray, for baking (optional)
For the Sauce:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, finely diced
- 3 tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 3 thyme sprigs
- Handful parsley stalks
- 4 cups vegan chicken stock or vegetable stock
For the Picada:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 slices sourdough or white bread, cut into cubes (gluten-free if necessary)
- 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
- 1/2 cup almonds, toasted
- Small handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- Pinch of saffron
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
To Make the Meatballs:
- Cook the rice in plenty of salted boiling water over medium heat until almost over-cooked, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.
- Heat a large glug of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the peppers, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until very soft.
- Add the cooked vegetables to the rice along with the remaining ingredients. Season to taste and mix very well. Set aside in the fridge to firm up for at least 1 hour.
- Shape the mixture into small balls (ball size is completely personal, but the larger the balls, the longer they will take to cook). If the mixture is a little wet, add 1 tablespoon flour at a time until the balls maintain their shape. Refrigerate until firm.
- Heat a nonstick frying pan with plenty of oil and fry the meatballs in batches over medium heat until golden brown all over. Alternatively, you can spray the meatballs with olive oil and cook in a 340°F oven on a baking tray lined with baking paper for 20–30 minutes, until golden brown.
To Make the Sauce:
- Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat. Add the onion, celery, and tomato. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until soft.
- Add the wine and herbs and cook until the wine has reduced by half. Add the stock, increase the temperature to medium, and simmer until the sauce has reduced by half.
To Make the Picada:
- Heat the oil in a small frying pan and fry the bread over medium–high heat until golden on all sides. Transfer to a food processor along with the remaining ingredients and pulse until it forms a rough paste.
- Add the meatballs to the sauce to heat through, stirring gently. Remove the meatballs and set aside.
- Slowly add the picada to the sauce, stirring constantly over low heat until thickened. Return the meatballs to the pan and coat in the sauce.
- Serve with braised barley and peas or with rice, pasta, bread– anything you want!
Recipes excerpted with permission from Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook (that happens to be vegan) by Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse, published by Hardie Grant Books March 2017, RRP $35.00 hardcover. Smith & Daughters is an award-winning vegan restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, twice voted Time Out People’s Choice Restaurant of the Year (2016 and 2014). https://www.amazon.com/Smith-Daughters-Cookbook-Happens-Vegan/dp/1743792077/?tag=onegrepla-20