Like many busy people, when I’m cooking at home I don’t really want to spend hours slaving over complicated recipes. My philosophy on cooking for friends and family is to keep it simple, fresh and Mediterranean. Above all, I want it to be the type of food that draws people together, to sit around a table sharing food, wine and conversation. Food is, after all, a communal experience – for all of us in the Mediterranean, it’s one of the biggest pleasures in life.

At home I love to cook one-pot dishes with big flavours that you can bring straight to the table and just tuck in. This months recipe, Iberian pork meatballs with spiced pumpkins and chickpeas, is one of those delicious, simple dishes that I often cook for family & friends. It’s real comfort food and the perfect winter warmer!

Pumpkins have a wonderful flavour and a smooth, silky texture that combines perfectly with chickpeas and Iberian pork. Warm spices also have a particular affinity with pumpkin, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger while herbs such as sage and rosemary also make great marriages,  so you can definetly experiment with this recipe. Remember that a recipe has no soul. You, the cook, must bring soul to the recipe. If there is no passion behind it – if you merely follow the instructions from a printed page – the chances are you’ll be disappointed. Cooking at home shouldn’t be a chore – it should be fun. Most of all, it should be a way of releasing your creative talents, relieving stress and tantalising your taste buds.
Happy cooking!


Serves 4
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 30 minutes chilling

For the meatballs:
450g/1lb pork shoulder, minced (ground)
2 tsp cumin seeds
50g/1¾oz/½ cup ground almonds
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
olive oil, for frying
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the spiced pumpkin and chickpea stew:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped root ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp crushed fennel seeds
1 star anise
1 large pinch saffron strands
600g/1lb 5oz pumpkin, peeled and diced
4 tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded and diced
1 tsp harissa paste
250ml/9fl oz/1 cup chicken stock (bouillon)
300g/10½oz cooked canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the meatballs, thoroughly mix the pork, cumin seeds, ground almonds, garlic and parsley in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, then shape into balls. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat. Fry the meatballs for 4–5 minutes, turning from time to time, until golden brown all over and cooked through. Set aside and keep warm.

For the spiced pumpkin and chickpea stew, heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over a low-medium heat and add the onions, garlic, chilli, ginger and spices. Stir to combine, cover and cook gently for 2–3 minutes until soft. Add the diced pumpkin, tomatoes, harissa paste and chicken stock (bouillon), season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the chickpeas and meatballs to the stew and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Adjust the seasoning if necessary and sprinkle with chopped coriander (cilantro) to serve.