Spicy lamb meatballs

There’s something about meatballs that makes them a family favourite the world over. Why do we, young and old alike, go crazy for food in bite-sized morsels? From the ubiquitous chicken nugget to the classy vol au vent, we all love food we can pop in our gobs.

And I’d say meatballs fit this category. Mini (or, if you make them like me, not-s0-mini) mouthfuls of meaty pleasure, smothered in a rich tomato sauce and served with anything that takes your fancy really – spaghetti or rice, in a warm pitta, or simply with a salad.

I normally make my meatballs with beef mince but, as I’ve been looking at a few Moroccan-style recipes lately, I thought I’d try making them with lamb. Of course this led me onto the traditional Moroccan accompaniments of mint, apricot, cumin and coriander.

We’re lucky that our daughters like spicy food. I’d always taken this quality for granted but I’ve eaten with a few friends and their children recently who really don’t like strong flavours, which has made me wonder why our girls do go for them in such a big way. I suppose it’s because spices have always been an essential part of my cooking. During both pregnancies I ate a lot of spicy food, even more so in the latter stages when both girls were overdue and I was trying to encourage things along!

If you’re thinking of making this recipe for children who aren’t into spicy flavours, you’ll probably want to consider cutting down (or out) the cumin and coriander and perhaps reducing the amount of garlic. But if I were you, I’d try the recipe as it stands – you might be surprised.

As this was one of our favourite meals last week, I’m entering it into The Best Thing You Ate link party organised by Justa at Frugally Delicious. Justa is a woman after my own heart: she’s into her weekly meal planning and, as the name of her blog suggests, she’s into frugal food that is seasonal, fresh and inexpensive.

Spicy lamb meatballs

Serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 x 400g can chopped plum tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
20g fresh mint, finely chopped
400g lean lamb mince
handful dried apricots, finely chopped
40g breadcrumbs

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and gently soften the onions until golden. Add the garlic and spices and cook for a couple more minutes. Put half the onion mixture into a bowl and leave to cool.

To the remaining onions in the pan stir in the tomatoes, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for ten minutes until the sauce has thickened.

When the onions have cooled, add the mint, lamb, apricots and breadcrumbs. Season well and mix together with your hands. Shape into ‘bite-sized’ meatballs.

Heat the remaining oil and fry the meatballs until golden brown. Stir in the sauce and cook gently until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve with boiled rice and a green salad.

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