When my friend Debbie of TheLifeEdit blog recommended this recipe, I was sceptical. After all, a meatball’s a meatball, heavens to betsy? Nope. These take meatballs to a whole new level as if they’ve bounced, you know, really high! So high, in fact, that Debbie says she’s ‘obsessed’ with them. And I’m sure we can all agree, there are worse things to be obsessed with, like One Direction, for example.
Annnnnywaaaay…the recipe is inspired by the great Jerusalem chef Yotam Ottolenghi. I say ‘inspired’ – it’s virtually identical, except I used cranberries instead of barberries (couldn’t get hold of them) and soft figs instead of dried figs (ditto).
I’ve also adjusted the ingredient amounts to make enough for 2-4 people to make around 16 meatballs (Yotam made 30 – get the cookbook if you fancy trying his version).
But despite these tweaks, the results were spectacular: tangy, tart, lamby meatballs, with a crunchy crust and a yielding centre, smothered in a wonderful, deep, rich, fruity, sweet sauce. Comfort food at its absolute best.
I served it with a simple salad, made with rocket and mint leaves, diced cucumber and feta cheese, drizzled with a lemon, olive oil and garlic dressing.
So, Debbie…thank you for this….
500g minced lamb
1 onion, finely chopped
10g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
¾ tsp ground allspice
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
1 medium free-range egg
50ml sunflower oil
5 shallots, sliced
100ml white wine
300ml chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 thyme sprigs
1 tsp sugar
100g soft figs, chopped
100g Greek yoghurt
Salt and black pepper
1. Place the lamb mince, shallots, parsley, garlic, allspice, cinnamon, cranberries, egg, 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp black pepper in a large bowl. Roll into balls, about the size of golf balls.
2. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan which has a tight-fitting lid. Cook the meatballs over a medium heat. Cook until brown and you have a nice crust, for approx. 5-7 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
3. Wipe the pan clean and add the remaining oil. Add the shallots and cook them on a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Add the wine, leave to bubble for a minute or two, then add the chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme, sugar and some salt and pepper.
4. Add the figs and arrange the meatballs amongst and on top of the shallots; the meatballs need to be almost covered in liquid.
5. Bring to the boil, cover with the lid, reduce the heat to very low and leave to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for about another hour, until the sauce has reduced and intensified in flavour. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
6. Transfer to a large, deep serving dish. Dollop the yoghurt, on top and serve with salad (or rice, if you prefer).