Lamb-a-licious meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce
Boys love meatballs – fact of life. And these are soooo good! Slightly spicy, some flavours of the middle east, but still with that melty, oozy, cheesy topping. Perfect for a Tuesday night dinner, perfect for sharing, perfect for the rainy, cooler evening that was developing yesterday. I did not set out to have these Lamb Meatballs as a post. This was just our regular Tuesday night dinner, being prepared in between multiple appointments and errands and I was not really thinking about you guys (except you Wendy of course!) – sorry. And then I cast my mind back to the first time I had made Lamb Meatballs, inspired by a Donna Hay recipe , and to be honest, they were just too spicy! Mr L drank about a litre of milk to get through the meal. It all comes down to the harissa paste. ( Segreti has a great flavour and is Australian made. I have included a link to the website, but most good delis will order in if they do not stock it.) I realised that I had made several other alterations to the recipe to reduce the intensity of the flavours as well. So less photos with the post, but suggestions for sides which can sometimes be the tricky part of putting a meal together.
One of the things that make these Lamb Meatballs so special is how juicy and tender they are. Burghul (cracked wheat) is soaked in some boiling water and used to bind the meatballs together. You can always use breadcrumbs if you have no burghul or are looking for a gluten free dinner. The burghul does give an amazing texture though. Set aside the mix until all the water is absorbed (don’t rush this bit or you will have soggy meatballs – trust me, made this mistake!) Combine the lamb mince, eggs, burghul, oregano, cumin, sugar and pomegranate molasses* into a large bowl and mix thoroughly. (*pomegranate molasses adds an amazing flavour and really should not be left out. You can purchase at delis or Aldi, yes, Aldi!) Season well and shape about 2 tablespoons of mince mixture into balls.
A kilo of the mince made 28 meatballs last night which was PLENTY for hungry boys and then left overs. If leftovers are not your thing, you could freeze a few of these at this stage, or even shape into smaller bite-sized balls that could be frozen and cooked up and served as nibbles with drinks – yum! Once you have all your meatballs made, heat a large frypan and cook in batches until browned all over – about 5 -8 minutes. Please turn them over frequently as the molasses catches easily, but adds a nice charred flavour.
Place the meatballs into a large (round) baking dish and repeat until all cooked. You can of course use whatever shape baking dish you like, but FB friends will remember my quest to locate a round dish as I was dismayed at the thought of putting round balls in a square pan. First world problem I know, and before you start muttering that I should get a life, or at least a “real” job, cast your peepers on my beautiful ROUND terracotta dish:
I finally purchased this beauty at Pennisi’s (where you can also get the pomegranate molasses by the way) and will be heading back soon to get other sizes as I love it (for those of you who don’t know Pennisis’s – it is a treasure trove of deli heaven! Brave the horrid inner city parking and go visit)
Now for the sauce. In the same pan that you cooked the lamb meatballs, fry garlic slices until golden. Add the harissa paste, passata (and a little water to swish out the bottle – don’t waste any!) 2 tsp sugar, salt and pepper, and stir and let bubble until combined and hot.
Pour the sauce over the meatballs.
Again, how beautiful is that dish?? Grate some mozzarella (or in my case three bocconcini that I had in the fridge from our home made pizza on the weekend) and finely grate some pecorino. Sprinkle over the meatballs.
Pop the dish into a preheated 190°C oven for 10-15 minutes; until the cheese is starting to brown. Sprinkle with some extra oregano leaves and bake for a further 5 minutes. Serve with cous cous or rice and a green salad – yum!
*For “One I prepared Earlier” – once the meatballs are cooked, place in the baking dish, cover and refrigerate. Make sauce but leave in the pan to be reheated later. When ready to serve, heat the sauce, pour over the meatballs, cover with some foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil, add grated cheese and follow the instructions from the original recipe.
As you can see, the boys managed a very generous 4 meatballs each! The cheesy topping is delicious and helps to cut through a little of the spiciness. An alternative (and probably more genuinely middle eastern option) would be to omit the cheese (sacrilege shout the boys!) and replace with a nice dollop of natural yoghurt. I served with Cous Cous with Lemon, Parsley and Almonds, and a Green Salad with Pomegranate dressing – superb and recipes for those salads to follow.
- ½ cup fine burghul
- ¾ cup boiling water
- 1 kg lamb mince
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup oregano leaves, chopped
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- ¼ cup pomegranate molasses
- salt and pepper
- Olive oil for frying, about 2 tbs
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
- 1 tsp harissa paste (Segreti brand)
- 700g passata or 2 x 400g tins of crushed tomatoes
- 2 tsp cater sugar
- ¼ cup grated mozzarella
- ¼ cup grated pecorino
- 1 tbs Oregano leaves , extra
- Preheat the oven to 190°C. Soak the burghul in the boiling water until softened and all water absorbed.
- Place lamb mince, burghul, eggs, oregano, cumin, sugar, molasses and salt and pepper into a large bowl and mix well. Shape 2 tbs of mixture into meatballs and fry over medium heat until brown all over - about 5 - 8 minutes. Turn frequently to avoid burning. Set meatballs aside into oven proof baking dish.
- In the same frying pan, add a little more oil and fry garlic until golden. Add harissa paste, passata (and a little water to swish out all the sauce from the bottle) extra sugar and salt and pepper. Stir yto combine and heat through. Pour over the meatballs. Top with the grated cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden. Scatter extra oregano leaves on top and bake a further 5 minutes.
- Serve with cous cous, rice or bread and a green salad
Harissa paste varies in strength from brand to brand. If you choose to use another brand, you may need to adjust the amount used to suit your taste
Cous Cous with Lemon, Parsley and Almonds
This is a great side dish to “cool” some of the spiciness of the sauce but also a great way of soaking up all the goodness on the plate. Bring 2 cups of chicken stock to the boil. Pour over 2 cups of cous cous and stir gently with a fork before covering bowl with a plate or plastic wrap. (A gentle stir here helps to separate the grains – less glugginess) Leave for 5 minutes (or longer if you get distracted in the kitchen, then fluff cous cous with a fork. Stir through the zest and juice of a small lemon, a handful of parsley leaves and some toasted slivered almonds. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil, and the season with salt and pepper. How easy was that? Enjoy x