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WanderSups: Make meatballs fit for a Yellowstone cowboy

“I have used a hob and an electric oven because, as much as I love those cowboys, we work smarter, not harder in this house. . .” Hannah Gregory, Velvet’s resident recipe writer, makes meatballs fit for a Yellowstone rancher

Meatballs for spring? World’s gone mad. Truth be told, I started playing around with this recipe with two things in mind. One, I had just binged ‘Yellowstone’ and was (still am) obsessed with all things cowboy which led me down a deep, dark rabbit hole of what cowboys eat because ya know, everything links back to food. And secondly, I thought wouldn’t it be nifty to write my autumnal recipes in spring and get ahead with all my submissions? Well, I did learn A LOT about cowboy fodder; getting ahead with writing, not so much. Ah, the hyperfocus of ADHD. . . but no matter, we now have a delicious corker of a recipe perfect for spring evenings.

Smokey Mexican chillies
Smokey Mexican chillies

When I think of meatballs, I have always leaned towards the Italian variety, plopped on piles of spaghetti as devoured by Lady and her beloved Tramp. I had never really considered the introduction of smokey Mexican chillies or the addition of a gooey cheese centre, something that feels very American; perhaps a cousin of the infamous stuffed-crust pizza that would make an Italian baulk.

Reading all about ‘Big Sky’ cooking and the kind of meals that were prepared by ranch cooks while out on cattle drives, a few things became very obvious: the inclusion of beef was non-negotiable, meals had to fill ravenous bellies that were growling with vigour after a day in the saddle, and everything needed to be somewhat nourishing to keep these cowboys going.

Traditionally, meals would have most likely been cooked in a Dutch oven, either buried in the ground under hot coals or hanging above a campfire. As I write this from my urban kitchen with not so much as a big sky in sight, I have used ingredients much more available to me than to those traversing the Wyoming mountains, plus I have used a hob and an electric oven because, as much as I love those cowboys, we work smarter, not harder in this house.

The thing that was most surprising to me about this dish is the lightness of the meatballs. I genuinely thought this would be a recipe that would leave me comatosed and ready to snuggle up on the sofa with a movie and a glass of red wine, but the meatballs themselves are so light that they pair perfectly with a fresh green salad or perhaps some steamed rice if you are that way inclined.

If I were cooking these for the John Duttons and Rips of the world, of course I would serve it with doorstops of bread and freshly made baked beans, but, until that day comes, a bowl of lemony dressed rocket will do nicely.

WanderSups' Hannah makes meatballs fit for a cowboy
WanderSups' Hannah makes meatballs fit for a cowboy

Smoky cheese and chipotle meatballs
Serves: 4

What you need:
For the meatballs:

● 1 red onion, finely diced

● 500g mince - 250g pork and 250g beef

● 1 tablespoon tomato puree

● 3 tablespoons cream

● 1 egg

● 30g grated parmesan

● 30g panko breadcrumbs

● 2 cloves garlic, minced

● 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

● 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

● 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

● 1 teaspoon dried oregano

● Salt and peps

● Glug olive oil

● 125g scamorza or a blend of grated mozzarella and other smoked cheese

For the sauce:

● Glug olive oil

● 1 red onion, finely diced

● 4 cloves garlic, crushed

● 1 red pepper, diced

● 2 chipotles in adobo (available from online Mexican grocers), chopped

● 1 tablespoon tomato puree

● 125ml red wine

● 1 tin plum tomatoes

● 1 tablespoon ketchup

● 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar

● Glug cider vinegar

● 30ml espresso

● 1 ball buffalo mozzarella

● Fresh oregano, for garnish

How you do it:

1. First fry the red onion until soft and then allow to cool.

2. Preheat your oven to 180°C.

3. Combine all your ingredients for the meatballs, including the cooled red onions but not the cheese, in a bowl. You are going to create quite a wet slurry; using your hands, keep mixing and squelching until everything is combined.

4. Still using your hands, portion your mixture into eight rounds and roll into balls.

5. Either cutting chunks of the scamorza or rolling balls of the grated cheese blend, create eight cheese ‘balls; that will be the centre of your meatballs.

6. One by one, poke your thumb into a meatball, plop the cheese in and then, again using your hands, reroll and pat the ball so the meat covers the cheese and seals it.

7. Heat a glug of olive oil in a wide ovenproof pan and brown your meatballs all over then set aside.


1. In the same pan you seared your meatballs, add another glug of olive oil.

2. Add the onion, garlic, pepper and chillies and fry gently for about 15 minutes until everything has softened.

3. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and allow it to bubble away for two to three minutes to cook off the alcohol.

4. Add the tomato puree, plum tomatoes (breaking up with a wooden spoon as needed), ketchup, sugar, vinegar and espresso and let this come to the boil.

5. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 15 minutes; check the seasoning and adjust as needed, adding more dark sugar for sweetness if required (tinned tomatoes can vary in bitterness so good to balance this out).

6. Add the meatballs to the sauce and place the pan into the hot oven and bake for 40 minutes.

7. For the last 10 minutes of cooking, tear in the buffalo mozzarella cheese around the meat balls.

8. Sprinkle with fresh oregano to serve.

A former BBC MasterChef quarter finalist, Hannah runs supper club, pop-up and private chef service WanderSups - “serving meals created with love, inspired by journeys around the world, dished up on home turf” - and is the brains behind TACOR, the taqueria coming to Bury St Edmunds soon. . . To find out more visit wandersups.com.

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