If you are one of the rather lovely and incredibly discerning people who have followed my blog from the beginning, you may remember back in April when Lady de B and I took on the terrifying (did I say terrifying, obviously I meant exciting) task of catering for our friend Paula’s wedding . Well, the happy day has almost dawned. It’s next Saturday.
The last few weeks have been a blur of bunting and ribbon, table linen and vintage plates, cocktail try outs and canapé platters. And now the cooking is starting in earnest. This week, I’m going to be typing and prepping at breakneck speed, to share with you some of the dishes we’re hoping will launch Paula and Jack deliciously into married life.
If you are the praying sort, I’d be very grateful if you could throw up a few good wishes for a couple of more hours in a day and sunshine on September 5…
Lamb meatballs with minted yoghurt
I first made these tasty meatballs for my best friend Victoria’s thirtieth birthday and I’ve made them a million times since. They’re simple and delicious, full of the Middle Eastern flavours I love. I found them in the October 1995 issue of Gourmet and I’ve tinkered with them just a little bit. In the original, they’re rolled in black and white sesame seeds which makes for gorgeous presentation, but one of Paula’s guests is allergic to sesame so I’ve left them out. In the past, in a hurry, I’ve simply mixed the sesame seeds in with the meat rather than rolling them and they were great, too. So sesame, sans sesame, I hope you’ll get rolling and try these out yourself.
Makes about 50.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1kg minced lamb
1 tbsp dried mint
1 tsp salt
½ tsp allspice
A good pinch of cinnamon
2 cups of breadcrumbs, about 140g
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsps currants
Freshly ground black pepper
For the yoghurt dip:
About 300ml whole milk Greek yoghurt
A good handful of fresh mint
A generous pinch or two of salt
Warm the olive oil in a small frying pan over a low heat and fry the onions, with a good pinch of salt, until very soft and slightly golden, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a couple more minutes.
Transfer to a large bowl and cool slightly before mixing in the mint, salt, allspice and cinnamon – it’ll smell heavenly at this point. Add the lamb, breadcrumbs, currants and eggs and combine gently but thoroughly. It’s best to do this with your hands as you’re less likely to over-mix. Overmixing makes the meatballs a bit heavy, which is not what you want at all. At this point, break off a small piece of the mixture and fry it in a little oil until golden and cooked through. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and some black pepper if necessary.
Take tablespoons of the mixture and roll them gently into balls. You can do this up to a day ahead, cover and chill them in the fridge, or you freeze them at this point as I’m doing.
You need to get the yoghurt dip going a few hours before you want to serve the meatballs. Line a sieve with muslin or kitchen paper and set it over a bowl. Tip the yoghurt into the lined sieve and let it drip, drip, drip away in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight. Just before serving, discard the liquid in the bowl and stir the mint and salt into the creamy yoghurt.
Preheat the oven to 220C/450F/Gas mark 8. Place the meatballs on a baking tray and bake for 8-10 minutes (15 minutes from frozen), rattling the tin half way through, until lightly browned and just cooked through. Serve warm with the yoghurt dipping sauce.