This recipe is inspired by Claudia Roden. She was born in Cairo and has a huge collection of recipes evocative of foods from the Middle East.
Lamb meatballs, stuffed with pine-nuts and baked in a tomato sauce
Serves 3 – 4 people as a main course.
500 minced lamb
1 large onion, finely diced
1/4 – 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, ground allspice, ground cumin, fresh thyme
zest of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of chili (optional)
Salt and pepper
Handful of toasted pine-nuts
2 tbs sunflower or rapeseed oil
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
- Start by making the tomato sauce. Whizz the tomatoes in a food processor, with a blender or pass through a sieve.
- Add to a saucepan with garlic, bayleaf, sugar and seasoning. Add 1 tin of water (tomato tin).
- Simmer gently until reduced by half. (this brings the sweetness out of the tomatoes).
- Whilst this is cooking, combine lamb with all the seasoning and lemon zest. Form them into balls. The size is up to you, I find a large walnut size works well.
- Make a depression in each ball and press in about 5 pine-nuts, ensure they are enclosed.
- If you have time to chill the balls for an hour or so, this works well, as they “set” and are easier to fry.
- Heat the oil in a pan. If you have a pan that will fit all the balls in, in a single layer and the sauce, and has a lid, this is ideal. You could cover with foil if no lid, or use a casserole and place in oven.
- Gently seal the balls in the pan.
- Once sealed, add the tomato sauce. Cook very gently, covered for 15 minutes, uncovered for final 10 minutes.
These are delicious served with warmed pittas, boiled rice or fettuccine.