The Versatile Meatball by Stephanie Alexander

There are so many things that can be done with a ball or patty of minced meat.

The Versatile Meatball

There are so many things that can be done with a ball or patty of minced meat. Flattened, it becomes a hamburger. If the meatballs are small they can be added to homemade tomato sauce and tossed through pasta, or dropped into a curry sauce and served with rice. Even smaller, they can be a hand-around party snack served on a toothpick, or they can be added to a lunchbox.

Whichever way you choose, have your accompaniments (buns, pasta, dipping sauce) ready or on the go so you can serve up the minute the hamburgers or meatballs are done.

If at all possible, ask your butcher to mince meat freshly for you. Chuck steak is better than topside, which is often used in mince, as chuck has a bit of fat in it that makes a moister meatball. The meat must be well-seasoned!

This quantity can easily be doubled.

Makes: 4 hamburgers/12 meatballs/20 tiny meatballs


  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
  • 800g freshly minced chuck steak
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


Heat a splash of oil in a small frying pan over low heat and fry the onion and garlic, covered, very gently for about five minutes until the onion is soft. Allow to cool completely.

Put the cold onion mixture into a bowl with the minced beef, salt and parsley. Work this together very, very thoroughly. Hands are the best tools for this. The mixture will feel a little sticky. Form into four, 12 or 20 balls, depending on what you want to do next.

For hamburgers: Flatten each ball. Heat the barbecue. Paint each hamburger patty with olive oil and grill for about three minutes each side for medium cook.

For meatballs to add to a sauce: Seal the meatballs in a frying pan in a little olive oil, then add the meatballs to your chosen sauce and cook further over gentle heat for a few minutes.

For tiny meatballs (to take to a party or picnic): Place the tiny meatballs in a frying pan in a little olive oil until cooked through, then serve straightaway with mustard or horseradish in a dish for dipping, or perhaps herb-infused yoghurt or a tomato sauce alongside. Don’t forget the toothpicks!

Variation: Experiment by adding other herbs or spices to the meat mixture and make your meatballs Indian, Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern or whatever you fancy.

Recipe taken from The Cook’s Apprentice by Stephanie Alexander.

The Cook’s Apprentice is the essential teaching cookbook for the younger cook who’s just starting out. This wonderful book is full to the brim with everything new foodies need to know to become relaxed and confident in the kitchen.

Arranged alphabetically, The Cook’s Apprentice includes 56 ingredient chapters – from Apples to Zucchini – and more than 300 achievable recipes ranging from classics every cook will want to try to exciting new dishes that reflect our diverse nation. Stephanie takes you into her kitchen as she explains more than 100 important techniques in straightforward language, discusses the kitchen tools she likes to use, and describes ingredients you might not know: How do I whisk eggs to soft peaks? What does it mean to ‘make a well’ in dry ingredients? Why should I roast spices? How do I prepare fresh chillies safely? What is ‘resting meat’ and why should I do it? How do I prepare a mango? What flavours work well together? What is fresh mozzarella? How do I say ‘quinoa’?

The Cook’s Apprentice gives all new cooks the inspiration they need for a lifetime of enjoyment in the kitchen.

You can purchase The Cook’s Apprentice at



    To make a comment, please register or login
    1st Feb 2019
    Why not mince your own meat using a mincer, every home used to have one - also an egg beater and mix master - but they all seem to have been made redundent by food processors.
    miss marple
    1st Feb 2019
    I guess if your not lucky enough to have a mincer or food processor you could use some very lean (already minced )meat, like lamb/ chicken/ beef

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