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Josceline Dimbleby's beef and anchovy meatballs

by Sarah Randell

I'm a bit of a Josceline Dimbleby groupie. Back in the 70s, when I cooked at my mother's knee, Josceline Dimbleby published her first cookery book with Sainsbury's and in the 80s she followed it up with a book on cooking with mince. But it wasn't mince as we knew it – with gravy or perhaps in a lasagne – it was mince exotica. Mince was mixed with the likes of cumin, cinnamon, fresh coriander (virtually unheard of at the time) or chilli to lift it into a different realm.

Around the same time my brother met his wife-to-be, Clare, and, one of my favourite suppers that she used to rustle up in their cosy Clapham kitchen was these meatballs, a Josceline Dimbleby special. Anchovies in meatballs was positively groundbreaking in the 80s. They have stood the test of time. We all still make them but I can now replace my splattered recipe with the clean page in Josceline's re-issue of Marvellous Meals With Mince (Quadrille). It's a really, really useful book and as Josceline says, 'Mince should never be thought of as dull – it is an incredibly versatile ingredient.' So say all of us.

You can buy Marvellous Meals With Mince by Josceline Dimbleby (Quadrille, £9.99) at the special price of £6.99 with free postage and packing. To order, call 01256 302699, quoting reference 8XD and your credit card details. Offer ends 30 September 2013.

Beef and anchovy meatballs

Serves 4-5

These simple meatballs include milk-soaked bread, which makes them soft and juicy as it prevents any liquid from running off as the meatballs cook.


  • 75g white or brown bread with crusts removed
  • milk, for soaking
  • 400g lean beef mince
  • 50g tinned anchovy fillets, oil reserved
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • a handful of flat-leaf parsley or sage leaves, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
  • plain flour, for dusting
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • butter, for frying
  • 150ml soured cream


  1. Roughly tear the bread into pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Pour over enough milk to cover and mash with a fork to a paste.
  2. Stir in the mince, the oil from the anchovies and the garlic. Mix together using a wooden spoon. Finely chop the anchovy fillets and add them to the mince mixture along with the parsley, a little salt and plenty of pepper.
  3. Wet your hands to prevent the mixture from sticking and form the mince into walnut-sized balls. Place the meatballs on to a lightly floured board or flat surface and roll to lightly coat in flour.
  4. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry the meatballs for about 6-8 minutes, turning them regularly, until a rich golden brown all over.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meatballs to a warmed serving dish. Pour over the soured cream and sprinkle with a few parsley leaves to serve.


Use yogurt instead of soured cream if you prefer.

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