I’ve written before about how much I love making and eating meatballs – friends and family often say its my signature dish. For a while I was even called ‘the meatball lady’ by a small three year old.
Looking through my recipes I’m surprised that to date I’ve only posted one for meatballs as they’re a regular feature at no 41. Meatballs are an easy way of combining textures and flavours and I like to experiment with what I find in the fridge, pantry or herb garden (I say garden but you know I mean flowerbed or scraggy pot at the front door).
I’m not sure how this combination came together. My meatballs have always been pork or beef based so lamb was a new direction. The flavours were inspired by recipes from Comfort & Spice and Ottolenghi and adding bulgur wheat came from thinking about what I might serve them with.
Sumac powder comes from crushing the dried berries of a shrub that is grown in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It has a citrus taste and is used in Middle Eastern cuisine as a souring agent instead of lemon. If you can’t find it, substitute with more lemon zest.
- ⅓ cup bulgur wheat
- ½ cup water
- 500g minced lamb
- 1 tbsp sumac
- 1 tbsp finely chopped lemon zest
- 1 egg, beaten
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- oil to shallow fry
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped
- 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- Soak the bulgur wheat in the water for 20 to 30 minutes until most if not all of the water is absorbed. Drain.
- Put the lamb, bulgur wheat, sumac and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl with a pinch of salt and a good few twists of pepper. Add the beaten egg, mix together thoroughly and shape into small meatballs - walnut sized - squeezing them tightly.
- Fry the meatballs in a little oil to brown them and set aside (don’t put too many in your pan at once, and treat them gently or they may break up - you may want to firm them in the fridge for 20-30 minutes first).
- For the tomato sauce, fry the chopped onions and garlic until soft in a pan large enough to hold all your meatballs (I find a saute pan is better than a saucepan). Add the tin of tomatoes, and heat until bubbling. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add your cooked meatballs to the tomato sauce and cook for 20-25 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through (keep an eye on the sauce as it gets quite thick and you don’t want it to stick, add a touch of water if necessary).
- Serve in toasted pitta breads with wilted greens and garlicky greek yoghurt.