Chicken and chorizo meatballs with spiced tomato sauce

Serves 3 as a main / 8 starter

100g chorizo
1 teaspoon paprika
1.5 tablespoons ricotta
300g chicken thigh fillets
½ 25g pack of basil

2 shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red chilli, sliced (and deseeded, optional)
½ pack of basil, stalks and leaves separated, stalks chopped
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika (or ¼ teaspoon hot smoked, or ½ teaspoon smoked)
2 x 400g cartons chopped tomatoes
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Dice half the chorizo, and cook the dice in a medium-hot oven-proof frying pan until crisp. Remove to drain onto kitchen paper with a slotted spoon, reserve the chorizo oil.

Whizz the other half of the chorizo with the paprika and a tablespoon of the chorizo oil from the frying pan until finely ground. Add the rest of the meatball ingredients, season with black pepper (you won’t need salt as the chorizo is salted) and whizz into a coarse mince – you want it quite chunky.

With wet hands, shape into eight balls for a starter or nine for a main course, about 3cm diameter. Chill until needed.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C / gas 5.

For the sauce, fry the shallots until soft. Add the chilli, garlic, basil stalks, paprika, cinnamon and black pepper and fry off until the spices become fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes, swill them round with quarter of a carton of water each and add that to the sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until reduced to a thick sauce. Take off the heat and stir through the basil leaves.

Wipe most of the remaining chorizo oil from the frying pan with kitchen towel, set over a medium-high heat. Sear the meatballs on all sides for 4-5 minutes. Put the frying pan (make sure it’s oven proof) into the oven for 8-10 minutes until they’re cooked all the way through. Serve over your choice of mashed potato, pasta or rice, with the warm sauce spooned over. For a starter serve one meatball per plate topped with warm sauce and a slice of crusty bread.

Adapt it:
• Add roughly chopped roast red peppers, either home-made or from a jar, to the sauce along with the spices.
• Add spinach or kale to the sauce, or pre-cooked veg such as chopped carrots.
• Use one tin of chopped tomatoes and 200g halved cherry tomatoes (this will increase the cooking time to allow them to soften).
• Rather than making meatballs, use the minced chicken and chorizo mixture to make a bolognaise: fry it off as you would the meat, remove to a plate; make the sauce to the point of adding the tomatoes, add the chicken mix back to the pan, add the tomatoes, cook down to a bolognaise consistency. This would be great in a lasagne, or tortillas!
• The mixture would also be good used to fill pasta – ravioli, cannelloni or rotolo – or a baguette.