These meatballs are a classic recipe from my first cookbook, A Girl Called Jack, and they recently got a new and exciting lease of life when I taught Marcus Rashford to cook them in the kitchen of his old school, Button Lane Primary School, in Wythenshawe, Manchester a couple of months ago. And then I had to keep it a MASSIVE SECRET which god help me, has almost burst me with anticipation a few times over the past few weeks, especially when people have endlessly been asking on Twitter if we are going to be doing anything together. Serene emojis and poker faces all round. Video footage of that strange and hilarious and humbling and inspiring day is available on the GQ YouTube channel on their Men Of The Year awards video – and I’ll be posting my own video later on when I get the okay from the GQ team.
Marcus was a bit nervous about cooking, saying it wasn’t something he really did, but we had an absolute blast and he made an excellent job of it, so if you’re nervous about giving these a go, rest assured they’re super easy. And we fed a whole primary school hall of kids and teachers with it, so it’s fair to say they’re pretty popular as well!
I add the mashed beans to stretch the mince out and make it go further; when I used food banks to feed myself and my son back in 2012-13 I actually used much more baked beans than this, but this is the optimum amount for keeping the beans relatively udetectable while saving a decent amount of money in the process.
Makes approximately 20 meatballs, serving 4 from 53p each. Prices calculated at Asda as it’s where I shop, but similar products are available for similar prices at all of the major supermarkets.
1 x 400g tin of baked beans, 29p (29p/400g, Asda)
1 large onion, 9p (60p/1kg, Growers Selection at Asda)
2 slices of bread, 4p (49p/22 slice loaf, Asda)
1 tbsp flour, <1p (49p/1.5kg flour, Asda)
400g turkey mince, £1.88 (£3.75/800g, Asda)
2 tbsp cooking oil, 3p (£1.09/1l sunflower or vegetable oil, Asda)
1 x 400g can of tomatoes, 28p (28p/400g, Smartprice at Asda)
salt and pepper, to season, <1p
spaghetti or pasta, to serve
First tip your beans into a ciolander or sieve, then run them under a cold tap, shaking gently or mussing them up with your hand if you’re not squeamish, to get all of the sticky orange sauce off. If you fancy being a little more advanced and a little less wasteful, you can tip the lot into a mixing bowl and add half a can of cold water, then pour the lot through a colander over a bowl to catch the orange suice, thinned down a little. Set this to one side to use in the tomato sauce for the spaghetti later.
Tip your newly-naked beans into a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for around 10 minutes to really soften them up. Drain well, then tip into a large mixing bowl, and mash to a pulp. We didn’t have a masher to hand 9in the largest kitchen I’ve ever cooked in, which led to four panicked minutes of me skittering around on a pair of six inch block heels calling out ‘Masher? Masher? Anyone? A masher?’ to various bewildered members of staff and production crew. There’s always something! Anyway, we made do with a fork and some adrenaline-fuelled vigour, so if you don’t have a masher, just work yourself up a bit and go for it.
Peel and finely chop the onion, or grate it using the large hole side of a box grater. Toss into the mixing bowl with the mashed bean pulp. Tear up the bread into small pieces (or blitz it in a food processor if you have one for ease). Add the flour, and stir well to combine.
Remove the mince from the packaging, separate it with your fingers lightly, and add that to the mixing bowl. Beat all of the ingredients together well until they are evenly distributed – you may need to add another tablespoon or two of flour, depending on how fatty your mince is or how wet your beans are.
Lightly oil or flour your hands to prevent the mixture from sticking, and form it into walnut-sized balls. One generously heaped tablespoon makes a perfect child-sized meatball – much bigger and they take longer to cook through.
Heat a little oil in a large frying pan, and drop the meatballs in a few at a time. Jiggle the pan gently, being careful not to splash yourself with hot oil, for ten minutes, until evenly cooked on all sides and through the centre. If youy’re cooking pasta with it, bring a pan of salty water to the boil and add the pasta, as it will take around seven or eight minutes to cook.
Pour over your can of chopped tomatoes and allow it to warm through, then serve. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add cheese if you’d like.
This recipe was originally published in A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe, which is available to buy, signed, directly from Jack at jackmonroe.bigcartel.com
Click here for my books! All text copyright Jack Monroe.
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