Saturday, 8 March 2008

Aromatic lamb meatballs

I have been watching Nigella Feasts on DVD and it's been giving me lots of cooking ideas. I was watching the "Exotic Evening" episode and apart from coveting almost every item of kitchenware she owned I also wanted to try her Aromatic Lamb Meatballs. I hit a small bump in the road when the supermarket had no minced lamb, which was rather strange. I did find some lovely fresh-minced lamb at our local Zone Fresh the next day though so there was only the smallest of delays.

Nigella says to fry these, but I hate to fry so I oven baked them for maybe 10/15 minutes at 180 degrees celcius. I think the oven was too hot though because they did end up being rather dry. The flavour wasn't as pronounced as I hoped it would be with cinnamon, cumin and allspice. I love cumin and could barely taste it. I ended up making some quick tomato chutney (thanks Recipes Plus!) to go with it, but both were less than satisfying.

A little off the topic of meatballs, but the other day DD, my mother and I went to breakfast at Fleet Street, which is a lovely tea-room style restaurant which is part of the Pig 'n Whistle at Indooroopilly. As part of their big breakfast they had this wonderfully spicy tomato relish and I have been hankering after another taste of it ever since. I think I will email them and ask, actually.

Anyway, so I thought this lovely spicy relish would go perfectly with my slightly flavourless meatballs and I went off on a search looking for a replica recipe. I didn't find one, but what I did find was one that was quick and easy and I had the ingredients in my pantry. Essentially, it was onions, tomatoes, garlic, balsamic, barbecue sauce, sugar and turmeric, but it tasted far too heavily of balsamic. I added more barbecue to try to balance it, but it didn't really work. It was a bit of a failure all round.

Aromatic Lamb Meatballs
from 'Nigella Feasts' by Nigella Lawson

450g minced lamb
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt
3 tbs semolina
1 egg
vegetable oil, for frying

Put the lamb into a bowl and add the scallions. Sprinkle over the spices, salt and semolina and then beat the egg and add it to the bowl. Work everything together thoroughly with your hands, and then cover with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for half an hour.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and scoop out a scant teaspoon of the mixture. Roll in your hands to form the meatball and place them on the lined baking sheet. Have a bowl of cold water beside you to dampen your hands with; this helps them not get too sticky for rolling the meatballs.

When you are ready to cook them, heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a frying pan. Line another baking sheet with kitchen towel, and when the oil is hot, fry the meatballs in batches without overcrowding the pan. Cook them for about a minute a side, or until golden brown all over.

Nigella says that she normally gets between 75-78 meatballs out of a batch. My meatballs must have been a little larger, I only got 67.

Quick Tomato Relish
from Recipes +, Mar/Apr 2008

1 tbs cooking oil
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 punnet (250g) cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tbs barbecue sauce
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp sugar
pinch ground turmeric (optional)

Heat oil in a small saucepan over moderate heat. Cook and stir onion for 3 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and tomato; cook for 2-3 minutes or until tomato begins to soften.

Stir in barbecue sauce, vinegar, sugar and turmeric. Season with salt and black pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until relish thickens.

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