I had some lamb mince in my freezer that I wanted to use up; there was an aubergine in the fridge, delivered by Waitrose a week ago, that also needing using up. My first thought with the mince was kofte – this is what I mainly buy it for, kofte to go on the barbecue. But with the family away and the weather having turned wet and colder, there wasn’t going to be a barbecue so maybe something other than my ‘usual’ kofte? I cook with aubergines a lot – one of my favourite vegetables – but what could I do that was a little bit different? The answer to both questions lay in Ottolenghi Simple. I’ve always loved Ottolenghi’s recipes (who hasn’t!) and the last meal I had at his flagship Islington store-restaurant was one of the best meals I’ve ever had (click here). But there’s no doubt that sometimes his recipes are a bit challenging. However, now with have Simple, and there are indeed recipes in it which are quite simple, such as the gorgeous Hazelnut, Peach & Raspberry Cake I made last weekend. I actually found a couple of recipes I liked for my lamb mince but settled on these meatballs as I also had a tub of feta cheese in my fridge. As for the aubergine, I came across a bulgur recipe that I’d posted on the blog three years ago and made it again (click here). I served lamb kofte with it then, but the meatballs I made today are different: I’ve never added cheese before (though it’s quite a common addition to meatballs) and I was intrigued to see how the feta would work.
I adjusted Ottolenghi’s measurements a bit as my pack of lamb mince weighed 400g and his recipe is for 500g.
Lamb & Feta Meatballs
- 400g lamb mince
- 80g feta, crumbled
- 1½ tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, picked from stalk
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 10g parsley, finely chopped
- 1 slice white bread (about 20g), crust removed and blitzed to make breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- olive oil
- 1-2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
- salt and black pepper
Put the mince into a large bowl with the feta, thyme, garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs, cinnamon, and a little salt and plenty of black pepper. Go easy on the salt as feta cheese is quite salty. Mix well with your hands until all the ingredients are blended in together. (Don’t be tempted to put it all in a food processor or you will get the wrong texture.)
Once it’s well mixed, form it into balls. I made 16 of about 32g each. I like to rub a little oil on my hands before rolling them into shape as it stops them sticking but also helps in the frying process.
I made these a few hours in advance, covered them in cling film and kept in the fridge until near the time I planned to eat. The final cooking doesn’t take long.
When you’re ready to cook them, preheat the oven to 220C/Fan 200/Gas 7.
Put a little – about a tablespoon – oil in a large frying pan. Fry the meatballs over a medium-high heat for about 5-6 minutes or until nicely browned all over.
Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle over the pomegranate molasses. This is optional, so don’t worry if you don’t have the molasses or can’t source it, although it’s in most supermarkets now. It does give a lovely sticky, sharp-sweetness to the meatballs though, so well worth doing if you can.
Cook the meatballs in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, until they’re cooked through. Transfer to a serving plate.
I served mine with the lovely bulgur, which I’d made it advance before the last-minute cooking of the meatballs.
I shall probably try freezing some of the leftover meatballs as I’d made about four servings.
They were really tasty meatballs, beautifully moist from the addition of the cheese, which also gave them a great flavour. The bulgur accompaniment was fantastic too and I really don’t know why it’s taken me so long to make it again – it makes a brilliant main dish as well as side dish.