Lamb meatballs with herbs
These richly flavored meatballs make a fine summer meal. Topped with a yogurt sauce and fresh herbs, they may be served hot or at room temperature, and would marry nicely with rice and a salad of greens or tomatoes and basil.
They can also play a starring role in a mezze spread, which could include any or all of the following: chick pea salad with cumin and dill; spicy carrot salad, Moroccan style; herbal tomato salad; tapenade; crisp goat cheese pastries with rosemary and honey; spicy eggplant caviar; tabbouleh salad; roasted tomatoes, Provence style; arugula salad with balsamic vinegar; oven-roasted eggplant, Mediterranean style.
As for the yogurt sauce, choose a whole-milk variety if possible — and if you can find ewe’s milk yogurt, that’s even better. Greek yogurt would also work well.
The meatballs may be prepared in advance and reheated with their juice in a little water.
1 pound (500 g) ground lamb
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. powdered cumin
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) dry rosé or white wine
3 cups (700 ml) water
2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tbsp. chopped mixed fresh herbs (cilantro, dill, mint)
Place the ground lamb in a large bowl. Finely mince the onion and add. Put the garlic through a press over the bowl.
Add 1 tsp. salt. Grind in a generous dose of black pepper. Add the spices. Add the chopped herbs. Add the beaten egg.
Using your hands, mix everything together. Form into medium-sized meatballs.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil to sizzling over high heat. Add the meatballs. Working quickly, turn them around to brown all sides. This will help them hold their shape. Then allow them to brown thoroughly. It takes a while, so you will need to be patient.
When the meatballs are well browned, add the wine. Swirl the skillet to incorporate the meat drippings and any onion bits that may have detached from the lamb. Allow to boil down for 2 minutes. Add the water, lemon juice and the additional 1 tsp. salt.
Turn the heat down to medium high. Simmer for about 40 minutes, until the sauce has reduced significantly. Be sure to keep an eye on things toward the end of the cooking process to ensure that the sauce does not evaporate entirely. You want to have about 1/2 inch (1 cm) of sauce left in the pan.
While the meatballs are cooking, make the yogurt sauce. Place the yogurt in a small bowl and beat it with a spoon until perfectly smooth. Stir in 1 tsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. lemon juice and salt to taste.
Transfer the meatballs and their juices to a serving dish. Spoon the yogurt sauce over the meatballs. Top with the mixed fresh herbs. Serves 4.
This dish was adapted from a recipe in ‘Jerusalem’ by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.