My feel-better lamb meatballs

Sunday and Monday were not well days for me. In the firm belief that good food will make me feel mentally, if not physically, better I felt the need for something nourishing. Something to banish the illness, if only temporarily. And, since reading this post from Jen of TomEatsJenCooks, I’ve had meatballs circulating my brain like some irritatingly catchy pop-lite song, except meatballs aren’t irritating with a catchy hook. But they’re definitely not going to go away until I scratch this particular itch.

Because i’m feeling so crappy, I’m not going to leave the house and will make do with what I have. Happily, what I have is minced lamb, onions and coriander. That and a multitude of spices just waiting to be combined alchemically into something good. So, it’s a pinch of cayenne here, a spoon of pine nuts there, and there I am, sniffling away like some manic plague victim in all their raggedy glory, mashing raw meat.

Because I’m not feeling well enough to griddle or grill I form them into rough balls, brown them in the oven, chuck over a tin of chopped tommies and glug of balsamic and leave them to simmer slowly away while I make some rice to go with them. Today is definitely not a day for clean fresh veg. I need filling, chill-banishing, rib-sticking spicy get-well-now food.

The result, although not curing me of the dreadful illness I’m in the clutches of, was pretty damn fine. The meatballs were spicy and nutty and juicy and good. The lamb was lent an extra moist edge by the onions and sharpened by the spice, with cinnamon and coriander seeds adding some more warmth. The juice and fat combined with the balsamic and tomatoes to form a luxurious and silky, oily accompaniment.

The Grubworm’s feel better meatballs
Makes 12-14, enough for 4 (or two and packed lunch the next day
The inspiration was part Jen’s meatball themed blog here, part Claudia Rodin’s Arabesque, and part the need for something savoury and good. The result, happily, was all good. If I were going to improve it I might add some lemon juice to the tomato and maybe some mashed anchovy or a glug of fish sauce to the lamb to give it an extra little dash of pungency. But it doesn’t really need it.

500g lamb
1 onion
A handfull of fresh coriander
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
.5 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp paprika
A handful of pine nuts
1 tin tomatoes
1 glug of balsamic vinegar

Heat the oven to 200oC. Roughly chop the onion and garlic and put it in blender with the fresh coriander and whizz it until it’s a textured green paste. Squeeze out any liquid you can using your hands and add to the lamb. Add the spices and pine nuts and mix thoroughly – I do this with my hands, it seem to be the most effective way of combining stuff well.

Shape the meaty mixture into ping-pong/walnut sized balls. Pour a wee bit of oil into a roasting tin/tray with sides high enough to hold the meatballs and the tomatoes. Roll the meatballs in it so they are covered with a fine film. Arrange then in neat rows and bake for 7-10 mins, then turn them and bake for another 7-10 mins. They should be browned on both sides after this.

Mix the balsamic into the tin of tomatoes. I do this in the tin rather than pouring into another container and creating more washing up. You could add some sugar and/or lemon juice here if you like. Pour the mix over the meatballs and put them back into the oven for another 30 minutes, turning once during cooking. Remove and serve over rice, or anything else that will soak up the sauce. I made the saffron rice from last weekend’s South Asian feast here, the raisins in the rice went beautifully with the lamb.

4 Responses to “My feel-better lamb meatballs”

  1. Tom

    Well I am obviously going to have to ask Jen to have a go at this recipe… Interesting I was just flicking through Rick Stein’s Far Eastern cookbook and was getting all excited at the Indian meatballs which looked tasty.

  2. The Grubworm

    Is that a good book? I’ve seen it but am unsure (plus running out of room for the cooking books – off-loaded about 20 when we moved and still have more than i read) about getting it.

    Indian meatballs would be great, there’s something about lamb and Indian spicing that works so well.

    I love meatballs in all their forms and love to experiment with everything from Thai style pork balls with lemongrass and mint to proper Italian beef balls with thyme and tomato sauces.

  3. The Grubworm

    Cool – let me know how it goes with the pasta, be interesting to know. Also any variation you make to the recipe would be interesting to know about – always on the lookout for tweaks and improvements.

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