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Albóndigas a la Mexicana


Serves 4

Cooks In

less than 60 minutes

The Spanish brought this Moorish influenced dish with them when they conquered Mexico. The meat is poached in the sauce instead of being fried, and it's usually served as a stew with a little rice and corn tortillas to mop up any leftover sauce. Usually meatballs are bound with egg and breadcrumbs, but in this recipe we use raw potato (which makes them soft and tender) and crushed corn chips for extra flavour. Another Mexican trick is to stuff each meatball with a piece of hardboiled egg, an olive, or – our favourite – a piece of pickled jalapeño, giving each meatball that added little kick of heat!


  1. Place all the ingredients for the meatballs in a bowl and mix together with your hands. Divide the meat into 35g portions (you should have 16). If you are stuffing your meatballs, push a piece of your chosen stuffing into the centre of each ball and re-roll the meat to seal around the stuffing. Place on a plate.
  2. To make the sauce, put the tin of tomatoes plus the juice (minus the reserved 2 tablespoons for loosening the achiote paste), onion and garlic into a plastic jug and blitz with a stick blender until smooth. 
  3. Heat the oil in a wide bottom saucepan until very hot, then add the tomato mix. Be careful as it sauce will sizzle and spit. Stir and cook until the sauce becomes thicker and darker in colour. Add the water or stock, chipotles in adobo or the diced chipotle, and the Mexican oregano. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes to allow the flavours to develop. 
  4. Gently lower the meatballs into the sauce, one at a time, jiggling the pan to ensure each is covered. After 10-15 minutes add the courgette and carrot. Again jiggle (stirring may break up the meatballs) the pan to cover the veg in the sauce. Cook for a further 20 minutes on a gentle heat. Adjust seasoning with salt to taste.
  5. Serve meatballs with plenty of sauce in a bowl with cooked rice and freshly warmed soft corn tortillas on the side.

Turn it into a torta

Any meatballs and sauce leftover can be made into a delicious torta (a Mexican sandwich). Take a good crusty bread roll, split open, stuff with meatballs and pour over plenty of sauce. Serve with corn chips and a slice of lime.