For Valentine’s Day, Suzen offered a class, what else, for couples. Couples who came in droves, cooked with laughter, and consumed with pleasure. The seven course meal featured a different sparkling wine with each course.
Suzen was curious about which of the seven dishes would please the crowd the most. Oh, it did not take long. In the kitchen, when the cooking was underway and long before nibbles touched palettes, the winner was evident: these lamb meatballs with yogurt sauce.
Men jostled to be part of the cooking team. Bodies stood around the oven, sniffing the aroma and waiting for the balls to escape from the heat. And when the meatballs and platter were put out for buffet, there was a deluge of hands reach down and over and around. Everyone wanted a meatball.
Now, everyone got one or two or three. But these were the first items gone. If we had made double, these would have been the first things gone.
Consider yourself warned. When you make these, they will disappear. Everyone will relish them. Everyone will want more.
We saw several recipes for meatballs, including one in the Williams Sonoma series Appetizers. We adapted that recipe and allowed our team to have full spice creativity. The results are amazing.
Spiced Lamb Meatballs With Garlicky Yogurt Sauce
Yield: about 40 enough for around 6 [maybe]
For the sauce:
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the meatballs:
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 2 slices firm white sandwich bread
- 1 pound ground lamb, preferably grass fed
- 3 green onions white and green parts minced
- ¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 large egg
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp. cayenne
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
Prepare the sauce: In a small serving bowl, stir together the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper until well blended. Set aside at room temperature until serving.
Prepare the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray the foil with cooking spray.
Remove the crusts of the sliced bread and grind in a food processor. Sprinkle the crumbs with 2 tablespoons of water and toss to moisten evenly.
In another bowl, add the lamb, green onions, most of the parsley (save a small amount to garnish the sauce), the egg, cumin, paprikas, pepper, allspice, the moistened bread crumbs and salt and mix together gently with your hands. Scoop up a heaping teaspoon of the mixture; shape into a ball between your palms, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat to shape the remaining mixture. You should have about 40 meatballs total.
Bake the meatballs until browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Alternately, you can brown the meatballs in 2 Tbsp. of oil in a sauté pan and finish cooking on a sheet pan in the oven. [This gives a better taste, trust me!]
Transfer the meatballs to a warmed platter and place the sauce alongside for dipping. Garnish with the reserved minced parsley. Serve right away with cocktail picks for spearing.
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55mm Lens, F/3.5, 1/30 second, ISO-320
That picture above there? It’s not good. I had to get a stock photo and play with Photoshop. Why didn’t I already have a picture of a boneless leg of lamb? Well, the simple fact it, Suzen and I don’t eat lamb that much. We like it, we do cook lamb — by the leg and by the rack. But not that often. We are Americans.
Long ago, Suzi stopped suggesting lamb to her Cooking by the Book clients. They go for chicken and beef and salmon. God forbid we suggest Bambi, or Thumper, or some tender little baby lamby thingy.
Our British cousins have a different viewpoint. They lamb-up or man-up. Lamb is readily eaten and enjoyed. Which brings us to the name of this recipe: Midweek Lamb. Americans think of lamb as a serious undertaking, one to be considered for holidays or weekends alone. Lamb is complicated. Lamb takes time. Lamb …
It’s all nonsense. This recipe is from LEON: Family and Friends, a book devoted to recipes that are casual, quick, and wonderful. The preparation time for this lamb is a mere 15 minutes and the suggested cooking time is 40 minutes. In about one hour, you can have a lamb treasure on you table. Suzi and I love the combination here of lamb and anchovies plus chilies. There is a rainbow of flavors here that will make your midweek seem like a Sunday evening.
There are options to this recipe. After you have finished cooking, you can deglaze the roasting pan with 1 cup of wine, stock, or water to make a terrific gravy. I vote for a serious red wine.
If anchovies are not your thing — I so hope that is not true but people, like recipes, come in all flavors — then you can substitute black olives. Say 18 or so.
If you want a more complete but still one-dish meal, then before you put the lamb in the roasting pan, put down a layer of vegetables. The LEON authors suggest red bell peppers and a bulb or two of fennel. Of course, you could do onions, carrots, or diced/sliced potatoes. It’s your choice and your pleasure.
Yield: serves 4
- A small bunch of fresh rosemary
- 1 boned leg of lamb, about 2 ¾ pounds in weight
- 6 anchovies — about 1 ounce
- 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
- Zest of ½ lemon
- 2 dried chilies
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425⁰ F.
Strip the leaves off the rosemary and set aside. Sprinkle the twigs in a roasting pan. Open out the lamb, pat dry, and lay it on top of the rosemary twigs.
Put all the remaining ingredients into a food processor with the rosemary leaves and process to a paste. Spread the paste over the lamb.
Roast in the oven for 40 minutes or until the lam is still nicely pink inside. Set it aside to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Source: LEON: Family & Friends by Kay Plunkett-Hogge & John Vincent