Dear Reader, I have a burning question for you. When it comes to dining out, what is your bill splitting etiquette? Do you split the bills evenly? What happens if some people only order mains or skip dessert? What do you do if some of you drink cocktails or alcohol? Do you think that the people drinking should cover the alcohol if there are some that don't?
A friend told me about some couples that she was friends with. They would go out in a group of six, with three couples. Two of the couples drank alcohol and cocktails while the one remaining couple didn't. This went on for years until one night, one member of the non drinking couple blurted out that he was sick of ordering extra dessert and cheese to make up for the fact that the other two couples' drinking habits. Sadly, after that, the relationship between the three couples wasn't the same and they never saw each other socially again.
I haven't been in that situation personally, but I think it would be incredibly awkward and I can see both sides and as someone that doesn't drink very much, I can see how it isn't fair. I also think that sometimes people just forget, they're having a good time and they don't think that it's such a big deal. Talking money among friends can of course be quite taboo.
I find money conversations awkward and will avoid them if possible. In fact, a friend of mine used to bring her two sons along to meals. They ate ravenously and even though there were three of them and two of us, she would always split the bills down the middle. Did that bother me? I will admit that it did, a little bit, especially since the sons would eat as adults (or even more sometimes ordering four desserts), but did it bother me enough to stop the friendship? No, but other factors things did and I allowed it to be a factor in not seeing them again. So I'm curious to know about your thoughts about dining out.
Anyway, where does that lead me? Onto a recipe so that all bill splitting decisions are rendered moot! This recipe for vegetarian meatballs is a great dinner party dish because I don't know a single person that doesn't harbour a love for meatballs. Deep down, in the darkest depths of our hearts, we all love a meatball. But what about a vegetarian meatball that tastes like a regular meatball? Yes folks, this does both and another reason why I think it's great for dinner parties is because you don't have to make a separate dish for the vegetarian (before you ask, no it's not vegan, please one at a time).
The vegetarian meatball recipe is one that I've been working on for years and I think it could go into production it's that delicious if I can be outrageously immodest. There's a lot of mixing going on and lots of additional bits to add to give it the requisite flavour but it makes a huge amount, enough for four hungry people to have on top of spaghetti. They freeze beautifully (I've frozen them sauce and all) and I portion them into single serves for when you need something healthy, nutritious and simple. This is also for the readers that recently asked for a vegetarian sausage roll filling on the blog and on facebook.
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your bill splitting etiquette? And do you have any bill splitting frustrations? What do you do if someone drinks while others don't? Do you discuss money among friends?
Bean & Quinoa Vegetarian Meatballs
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott/Not Quite Nigella
Preparation time: 25 minutes plus 30 minutes resting time
Cooking time: 30 minutes
- 25g/1oz dried shiitake mushrooms (about 6 of them)
- 2 onions, peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 cups shredded tasty cheese
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 410g/14oz. tin of red kidney beans
- 1/2 cup ground nuts (I used almonds)
- 1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped finely
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 long red chillies (optional)
- 3 eggs
- 5 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons soy or Worcestershire sauce (the latter has anchovies so it isn't vegetarian)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 540g/19oz. jar pasta sauce
- 5 tablespoons tomato paste (or to taste)
Buyer's tip: shiitake mushrooms are available in the Asian aisle of the supermarket and can be sold whole or sliced.
Step 1 - Firstly rehydrate the mushrooms. I prefer to use shiitakes as they have a lovely meaty flavour and can really add a lot to the meatballs. Cover them in boiling water, cover with a plate and leave to rehydrate for 10 minutes. Drain (you can reserve the water for stock or soup), squeeze water out gently and remove the stem. Chop finely by hand or in a food processor. Set aside.
Step 2 - Heat a frypan on medium heat and add the oil. Saute the onions for a few minutes until they become fragrant and translucent.
Step 3 - Place the cheese, breadcrumbs, quinoa, beans, nuts, mushrooms, coriander, garlic, chillies and the sauteed onions in a large bowl. Beat eggs lightly and add these to the main mix along with the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Then, return the whole mix to the food processor and blend it to get a fine, even textured meatball. It's important to taste for seasoning now so add some salt and pepper and cook a little of the meatball so that you can taste it so just cook up a bit of the mix in the frypan and check for taste. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge to firm up for 30 minutes.
Step 4 - Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Line two baking trays with baking paper. With a teaspoon and damp hands, roll meatballs and place on the baking trays. Bake for 20 minutes.
Step 5 - While these are baking, heat the pasta sauce and tomato paste together. Once the meatballs are done, gently simmer them in the sauce for a minute or two, just to get them saucy.