These chunky meatballs make a fine family feast

Di Curtin shares a recipe for tasty meatballs and stuffed baked apples
These chunky meatballs make a fine family feast

Meatballs by Di Curtin.

AUTUMN proper is upon us. Whilst the days can still have glorious sunshine, there’s deffo a downturn in the mercury as the nights draw in.

Time to cosy up by the fire and get some hearty family grub inside you. My shed is seasonally stocked with logs and coal, ready to do just that for the next few months!


Mince is a versatile and economical option for a family dinner, any day of the week. From Cottage Pie to Spag Bol, Chile Con Carne and Enchilladas, a bit of minced beef is a handy ingredient which goes a long way for the culinary repertoire!

Best quality minced beef comes from your local butcher, especially if he ages his own beef. The mince is usually made from offcuts of left after stripping down the carcass and removing the popular beef cuts and joints, so you could end up with anything from rump, rib or sirloin to the tail ends of fillet steak in the mince mix. A little fat in the mix is essential also, to give succulent moisture to the end result.

The recipe below is basic and adaptable. The addition of dried chilli flakes gives a spicy result. Sage is also a good herb to flavour these meatballs, instead of the parsley and thyme. Lemon zest adds a little citrus zing. Whatever you add, the end result is a gorgeous bubbling dish of meatiness, topped with melted cheese, to be served with pasta of choice or boiled rice and a salad on the side.


The time for a game of ‘bobbing for apples’ is also round the corner. But I can think of better things to do with the fruit of the season than getting your face wet trying to grab an apple from a bowl of cold water with your teeth!

You won’t have to bob too far for these gorgeous baked spiced apples. A mix of sugar, spices and dried fruit stuffed Irish apples is hearty and comforting. Serve warm with cream, ice cream or custard.


500g best minced beef 

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely crushed 

1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley 

2 tsp fresh thyme 

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped 

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed 

1 red pepper, seeded and chopped 

750mls rustic chunky passata 

1 tbsp sundried tomato paste 


  • Mix the beef with garlic and parsley in a bowl. Season.
  • Bring mix together with hands to bind. Nip off chunks and roll into even sized balls. Arrange neatly in an ovenproof dish just big enough to take them snugly.
  • Heat oil in a pan and add onion, garlic and red pepper over low heat. Cook till soft but not browned.Stir occasionally Pour over passata and stir in sundried tomato paste. Bring to bubbling. Taste for seasoning.
  • Pour sauce over the meatballs in the dish. Top with grated cheese and season with extra freshly ground black pepper.
  • Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated oven Gas 4 350F 180C For 20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through and sauce is bubbling.
  • Serve with cooked pasta or rice.
Stuffed Apples by Di Curtin
Stuffed Apples by Di Curtin


Ingredients (Serves 4)

4 dessert apples 

50g butter 

3 tbsp soft brown sugar 

3 tbsp sultanas 

2 tbsp raisins 

1 tbsp diced candied peel grated zest of a lemon 

1 tsp ground ginger

 ½ tsp mixed spice good splash of apple juice or water 


  • Core the apples with an apple corer or use a sharp knife to cut out a cylinder from the centre of each apple. Make sure you get all the pips.
  • Score the skin each apple around it’s circumferance Place in a buttered ovenproof dish.
  • Mix the butter with the sugar, fruit, candied peel, lemon zest and spices in a small pan.
  • Heat gently till the butter melts.
  • Spoon some of the fruit mix into the centre of the apples.
  • Scatter the remaining fruit and melted butter around and add a splash of apple juice or water to the dish.
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven Gas 5 375F 190C for 15 minutes or until the apples are tender and pulpy but not completely collapsed.
  • Serve in warmed bowls - with custard!

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