January 8, 2010

turkish meatballs: lamb with mint & cinnamon, beef with parsley & cumin

These were the only non-vegetarian element of my Arabian Nights feast: two varieties of tasty meatballs with a Turkish twist, both served in a sticky, garlicky tomato sauce. The first kind match lamb with mint (I love that flavour combination) and the tiniest taste of cinnamon, while the second variety combine beef with even stronger flavours: cumin, parsley and pine nuts. I love pine nuts in meatballs; I also love them lightly toasted and scattered over dishes like this, and couscous.

There's no need to make both kinds for the one feast, of course. I did things this way because I wanted to experiment, and I couldn't tell you which flavour I prefer. They're both great. They'd be a tasty ordinary meal as well, served with rice and a salad, and although there's the bother of shaping each individual meatball, they cook very easily in the oven and then in the sauce. And the sauce itself is really simple to prepare.

If you're making this dish as part of a feast, it's a good one to get started on early, although of course you don't have to. I put together the meat mixture the day before and refrigerated it; the cold mix was easier to form into meatballs on the day of the meal. I also made the sauce the day before, which I'm sure only improved the flavour.

Turkish Meatballs
adapted from Claudia Roden's Arabesque

For the tomato sauce:

1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 chili pepper, seeded and chopped, or 1/2-1 tsp dried chili flakes
1.5 lbs (680g) tomatoes, peeled and chopped
salt and black pepper
1 to 2 tsp sugar

For lamb meatballs:

1 lb (450g) ground (minced) lamb
salt and black pepper
1/2 a small onion, very finely chopped
handful of finely chopped mint
1/2 tsp cinnamon

For beef meatballs:

1 lb (450g) ground (minced) beef
salt and black pepper
1/2 a small onion, very finely chopped
handful of finely chopped parsley
1 tsp ground cumin
handful pine nuts

olive oil

To make the meatballs, season the meat with salt and pepper and work into a soft paste with your hands. Add the onion, mint and cinnamon to the lamb, and the onion, parsley, pine nuts and cumin to the beef. Form into small walnut sized balls with your hands.

Put some olive oil in a soup plate or shallow bowl. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.

Roll each meatball in the oil, then place in a baking dish. Bake for 15-25 minutes, until their colour changes.

To make the tomato sauce, fry the onion in the oil until soft. Add the garlic and chili pepper (or dried chili flakes), and stir for a moment or two. Put in the tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and sugar, and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until they soften and the sauce is reduced. You want a sticky sauce that isn't particularly liquid.

Add the meatballs, and cook for a further 15-20 minutes. Serve immediately, sprinkled with extra pine nuts.


Laura said...

They look delicious!

Cooking with Michele said...

I made a lamb meatloaf that had a similar flavor profile - it had pine nuts, raisins and Moccocan flavored spices in it - probably would taste great with your sauce!

Anonymous said...

Nothing makes meatballs better than a good twist to spice things up! I love all the photos on your blog. And pistachio? mmm, I'm there!

Anonymous said...

made the beefy ones last night. delicious. claudia is a goddess

Anonymous said...


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