Mini Meatballs might be your next best friend, food wise. They’re easy to make, and that roly poly bite sized shape is a crowd pleaser, at all ages. Hot out of the pan, they sizzle with flavour. Found in a lunchbox, they delight. Cold out of the fridge, they’re a tasty snack. And they turn a fresh and vibrant salad into a balanced meal in a moment. These Basil and Chicken Meatballs, as well as being Paleo and AIP, are also low Fodmap – you can’t do better than that.
They’re packed with fresh basil, fried until golden, and are just right atop a mountain of baby spinach leaves and arugula. Add a generous portion of pan-roasted pumpkin, a scattering of blackberries for a touch of wilderness and just a few strawberries for sweetness. Douse the lot with extra virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar, and finish with a fresh grinding of salt. You can serve this lovely early Autumn salad with the meatballs hissing straight from the pan, so that the spinach and arugula begin wilting. Or, make the meatballs earlier and serve them cold, maybe sliced atop the salad and with a little chutney on the side.
Onion Free Meatballs, But Why?
FODMAP’s get me down. Literally. There’s something about that uncomfortable bloated belly that triggers anxiety. It transports me away from my usual state of joy and dumps me in a muddy and bleak place that lies somewhere between sadness, impatience and grief. It makes me believe fully in the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS). It’s all related: what we eat, how we feel, how we behave. At the moment I seem to be in a cycle whereby I have a couple of okay days, and then I’ll swell up again. I’ve got a feeling there’s an accumulative effect going on – it seems I’m not reacting to any one food in particular, but if I eat a little of this and a little of that over a few days, then all of a sudden I find I’ve a watermelon growing in my belly, and it doesn’t want to come out.
Most tasty meatballs are made with onion, garlic and spice – all ingredients which can unsettle the balance of microbes in the gut. Needing something gentle, I decided to pare it down. These lovely, simple, tender Basil and Chicken Meatballs were born.
Basil and Chicken Meatballs with an Autumn Welcome Salad
It’s a busy month. On top of his job, The General has gigs every weekend, and my yoga classes have just started up again. After a long and lazy summer, we’re getting up at 6.30 again, and the days are long. They’re also really hot, still, with no cool break in sight. We leapt into doing a Whole 30, and an AIP version of it to boot. And then there’s Fodmaps. We need fast food, comfort food, beautiful food. Food that can be made a day ahead (or two) and can be packed into a luchbox to be taken to gigs. Food that is easy to make and easy to digest. Thank God, then, that it’s the beginning of Autumn – the basil plants are still bushy, there are fat pumpkins again in the store, and the blackberries in the hills are ripe for the picking.
I went up to Monte late on Saturday afternoon; he came up around midnight, after the wedding gig. Even up there it’s still hot, but at least the night air is cool, and you can sleep without tossing and sweating. I gathered blackberries and a few figs, and out the back, there were strawberries. I’d brought up that classic version of Paleo fast food: fresh, pre-washed salad leaves in a bag. Two bags: baby spinach, and arugula.
I made the Basil and Chicken Meatballs simultaneously as I pan-roasted the pumpkin in a little olive oil. At one sitting, the meatballs and pumpkin were served warm on top of the salad. At the next, the meatballs were sliced and the lot was packed into a box for a dinner on the go. Pumpkin is so great in a salad! It adds a touch of creaminess, which is brilliant when you’re not using mayonnaise.
My tip for these meatballs is this: don’t be afraid to be heavy handed with the fresh basil. A half-cup of firmly packed leaves looks like a lot when you tip it out onto your chopping board, but it’ll reduce down as you mince it, and that generous quantity is what gives these meatballs their wonderful, fragrant flavour.
Do make these, and I hope the pumpkin and berry salad ignites your own Autumn kitchen creativity. Healthy and beautiful food doesn’t need to be complicated! Be sure to take a shot and tag me on Instagram @paleomantic – it’s always such a treat to see what you’re up to. And let me know how you go in the comments.
On the Side
Balsamic Beef with Roasted Rosemary Pumpkin and Pomegranate – another beautiful autumn salad.
Rosemary, Fennel and Garlic All Day Beef Burgers – that are also wonderful as mini balls.
Better than Waldorf – A Main Meal Salad – one of the best ways to exploit crisp new season apples.
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- 300 grams / 10 ounces ground chicken
- ½ cup firmly packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon + 3 tablespoons cassava flour
- 2 cups pumpkin, cut into 2cm / ¾ inch cubes
- 6 tablespoons olive oil or lard
- 4 cups baby spinach leaves
- 4 cups arugula (rocket)
- 1 cup blackberries
- 1 cup strawberries
- extra virgin olive oil
- apple cider vinegar
- iodised sea salt
- Finely mince the basil leaves, and add to a bowl with the ground chicken, 1 tablespoon of cassava flour and a ¼ teaspoon of salt. Mix well with your hands, and form into 16 small balls. Roll the balls in the extra flour until they are well coated.
- Heat two frypans, and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil or lard to each pan. In one pan, fry the pumpkin, and in the other the meatballs. Turn and shake often until the meatballs are well cooked and golden, and the pumpkin is soft and coloured on the edges, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, distribute the spinach, rocket, blackberries and strawberries onto plates.
- Pile the hot pumpkin and meatballs into the centre of the salad, or wait for them to cool and serve them at room temperature.
- Douse the salads generously with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar, and with a fresh grinding of salt (or place the bottles and the grinder on the table, so that each can dress their own.