Vegan Neatball Masala - The Little Plantation

In a rush?  Need the recipe for delicious vegan neatball masala NOW? Then scroll down to the end of this blog post!

Through work and my general obsession with food, I come across new cookbooks ALL. THE. TIME. And I can count on 1, at most 2 hands the books I get really, really excited about. So excited that I take the book to bed for in-depth reading and general 'research'. So excited that I plan my week around creating certain dishes from said book. So excited that I wake up in the middle of the night and jot down a quick shopping list to ensure I have the right ingredients to get cracking in the kitchen the following day. So excited that I look at the photos again and again and again and.... It's pathetic, but you get the picture.

Books that fall into that category of they-make-my-heart-skip-a-beat-i-love-them-so-much include Sarah Britton's book MY NEW ROOTS and Amy Chaplin's book AT HOME IN THE WHOLEFOOD KITCHEN, both gems and must-haves if you ask me. And I can honestly say that Nina Olsson's new book BOWLS OF GOODNESS firmly falls into that camp as well because it's special, beautiful and unique.

So I guess the question on your minds is, what makes it so amazing? Well...
1. There's the to-die-for photography in Nina's signature style.
2. The recipes are so creative, fun, adventurous and really different. Sure, Nina includes old favourites like overnight oats and vegan chocolate mousse, but mostly her flavour combinations and recipes are one of a kind, totally RAD and mind blowingly cool!
3. I love that the book is heavy on well thought through savoury dishes. In my opinion too often vegan/vegetarian cookbooks rely on sweet breakfast recipes and desserts to fill the pages, but not Nina's book!
4. The book is appropriate for those new to as well as those familiar with vegetarian cooking; every recipe is achievable by home cooks, yet exciting enough to keep the experienced cooks intrigued. 
5. Highlights include the neatball and masala recipe featured here today, as well as the Moroccan harissa salad (SOOOO good), Laksa noodles (can't wait!) and Gado Gado (betcha don't even know what that is :p).

Anything to be mindful of...
1. To be creative means to play with lots of different specialist ingredients which you may not have readily available (unless you are seriously into your plantbased food). So think nutritional yeast, tamarind paste, tempeh, canned jackfruit etc. However I think the book offers you a great excuse to step out of your comfort zone and expand your pantry ;). 
2. This is a vegetarian book, not a vegan book and dairy products are used in a number of recipes. However Nina does offer vegan alternatives where possible.

Vegan Neatball Masala - The Little Plantation

THE COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED! Do you now understand why I'm so excited about sharing this book with you? Luckily, I'm not keeping this gem to myself. Oh no. Instead, I'm sharing the love and giving YOU the chance to win a copy of Bowls of Goodness. That's because Kyle Books generously agreed to send one of my readers a copy of the book. Woohoo! All you need to do for a chance to win is comment below, telling me which country, city or town you'd consider a foodie hotspot and why. But be quick with your answers, entry to this give-away closes at midnight (Greenwich Time) on Monday, January 23rd. The winner will be picked and notified within a week of the closing date. THE WINNER IS EMMA! CONGRATULATIONS!

Please also note that this competition is open to UK residents only. Therefore, I'd be super grateful if you can be clear when you comment whether you live in the UK or not. And even if you don't please do feel free to leave a comment. I'm super interested to read your answers no matter where you live :). Good luck everyone! 

P.S. Want to find out more about Nina Olsson and buy her book? Then head over to her blog or follow her journey on instagram

P.P.S. Just 5 more days to go til march day on January 21st, 2017. Will you #marchwithus #womensmarchlondon?

P.P.P.S. A MASSIVE thank you to Olivia Newstead for assisting me on the day. It was a joy to work with her. 

Thanks for reading everyone and see you in 2 weeks.

Recipe below...

Vegan Neatball Masala - The Little Plantation


This recipe - adapted slightly from Nina Olsson's new book Bowls of Goodness - is HANDS DOWN the one with the longest ingredients' list and the one with the longest preparation time here on The Little Plantation, EVER. BUT, please know IT'S TOTALLY WORTH IT. I HONESTLY mean that! So please do not be put off making this delicious, delicious, delicious meal packed full of flavours!

My advice would be to either to:
1. Make the neatballs a day in advance. That's what I did, meaning I made them on a Tuesday when we had a handful for dinner; I then set 3-4 neatballs/per person aside for the following day and froze the rest. On the Wednesday I made the masala and added the neaballs. Simple!
2. Make the masala sauce and add chickpeas or cauliflower in lieu of the neatballs
3. Make the entire recipe on the weekend when you have lots of time and/or friends around to lend you a hand. Fun! ;)


Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes + 20 minutes (please see tips for important details!)
Makes: 25 - 30 neatballs

Ingredients for the neatballs:

Wet ingredients:
1 tbs tahini
3tbs tamari sauce
2tbs olive oil
1tbs water
1tbs lemon juice
1tbs maple syrup
1tbs sriracha
3 garlic cloves, super finely chopped
1tsp liquid smoke (optional) 

Dry ingredients: 

250g oatmeal
3/4tsp salt
1tsp chopped oregano leaves
2tbs nutritional yeast (see vegetarian alternative in tips at the end)
300g cooked brown rice (see tips for further details)
100g pine nuts, ground to fine crumbles
oil for frying, I used rice bran oil but coconut oil or olive oil would also work
1 red onion, super finely diced
150g mushrooms, chopped (see tips for details)
1 small carrot, finely grated
2 spring onions, finely chopped
handful of finely chopped parsley
100g panko or breadcrumbs

Instructions for the neatballs:

In a small bowl, mix together the wet ingredients and set aside.

In a large bowl mix together the oats, salt, oregano and nutritional yeast. Then add the rice and crushed pine nuts until nicely combined. Set aside.

Heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Add a drizzle of oil and fry the onions and mushrooms for 5 minutes or until the onion pieces are just translucent. Then add the fried onion pieces and mushrooms to the large bowl containing the oats etc., add the grated carrot, chopped spring onion and parsley and mix everything together well with a wooden spoon. 
At this point you can add the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper if you wish (FYI, I didn't add either).

Next create little neatballs by rolling the mixture in the palms of your hands. Should the mixture be too wet feel free to add a tiny bit more oatmeal. Then roll the neatballs in the panko or breadcrumbs and set aside.
Once all the neatballs have been formed and coated with panko/breadcrumbs, heat a frying pan over a medium heat, add a drizzle of oil and fry the neatballs until they are a lovely brown colour.

Tip 1: Please note this recipe asks for cooked brown rice. Brown rice takes about 40 minutes or so to cook, therefore - unless you have cooked rice to hand - make sure to take this into account when thinking through your prep/cooking time.
Tip 2: Don't have sriracha sauce? I'd replace the 1 tablespoon of maple syrup + 1 tablespoon of sriracha sauce with 2 tablespoons of ketchup!
Tip 3: You can replace the nutritional yeast with grated parmesan, though the recipe would then no longer be vegan ;)
Tip 4: I took 225g brown rice and cooked it. This gave me the 300g cooked rice I needed to make the neatballs AND enough spare to eat with the masala (as shown). If you do not want to have extra rice left over I'd probably cook about 200g only.
Tip 5: I used regular chestnut mushrooms, though I'm sure Portobello mushrooms would have been fine too.

Masala recipe below...

Vegan Neatball Masala - The Little Plantation


Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 20-25minutes (please see tips below for important details)
Serves: 4

Ingredients for the quick pickled carrots:

2 carrots, sliced into thin ribbons
50ml water
2tbs agave syrup
50ml rice vinegar

Ingredients for the spice paste for the masala:

1.5tbs garam masala
1tsp ground cardamom
1tsp ground cloves
1tsp ground turmeric
1tbs ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
1tbs paprika
1tsp salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1.5 tbs freshly grated ginger
4 garlic cloves, super finely chopped
coconut oil or rice bran oil
2 red onions, chopped
2 tbs ground almonds

Ingredients for the sauce base:

4tbs tomato puree
2tbs rice bran oil
400g coconut cream
4tbs tamari sauce
300ml vegetable broth

Serve with:
brown rice
a sprinkle of hemp seeds (optional)
mint leaves to garnish (optional)
chilli flakes (optional)

Instructions below...

Vegan Neatball Masala - The Little Plantation

Instructions for the quick pickled carrots:

Mix the carrot ribbons (I used a potato peeler to get them nice and thin) with the water, agave syrup and rice vinegar in a small bowl and set aside until serving. 

Instructions for the masala sauce:

Start by preparing the spice paste. Add all the dry spices, salt and lemon juice to a small mixing bowl with the grated ginger and garlic. Mix well and set aside.
Heat up a frying pan, add a drizzle of oil and fry the onions over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until they become translucent. Next add the ground almonds, give them a quick stir and remove from the heat.
Place all the ingredients from the small mixing bowl together with the fried onions and ground almonds in a food processor. Blend the ingredients until they form a paste.

Next reheat the frying pan, pour in some more oil then place the spice paste in the frying pan and add the ingredients for the sauce base, namely the tomato puree, coconut cream, tamari sauce and the vegetable broth. Mix well and let it simmer over a low heat for about 15 minutes. 

Serve with the vegan neatballs, rice, quick pickled carrots, mint and hemp sprinkles.

Tip 1: The recipe calls for vegetable broth. If you do not have this ready made, please remember to add broth making time to your preparation time! I used a vegetable cube, which I dissolved in hot water. This added about 5-7 minutes to my preparation time.
Tip 2: Instead of serving this with neatballs you can also serve it with chickpeas (pre-cooked canned ones would work well) or cauliflower.
Tip 3: This is served ideally with brown rice. Remember to set aside an additional 40 minutes cooking time if you are cooking the brown rice on the day!