Winter has arrived today and he will not be sitting around waiting till it gradually gets colder. To make sure everyone knows he’s back this year, he’s planning on making the temperatures drop to -20˚C this weekend, lucky us. Even though it’s tradition to eat dumplings (水饺) when winter arrives, I am craving a totally different dish.
These lamb meatballs with yoghurt, eggs and coriander are hearty, comforting, intensely packed with flavor and you should definitely eat them while sitting on the couch, covered with a warm blanket and watch the last episode of Gossip Girl. Too bad I don’t have a couch, I already watch the episode and I’m just not brave enough to make the trip to the supermarket in this cold. So what I will do is eat dumplings and tell you that you should really make these meatballs, eat them the way I suggested and admit that they were indeed as good as I told you.
Adapted recipe from A girl and her pig by April Bloomfield.
This is my quicker version of the original recipe. I’ve used already ground spices instead of grinding the spices myself, minced lamb meat instead of mincing the lamb meat myself, etc. Finally I omitted the mint and just added some more coriander.
For the meatballs
1,150 kg minced lamb meat
2,5 tbsp Maldon or any other flaky sea salt
250 g fine bread crumbs (about 2 cups)
1 tbsp extra virgin oil
For the sauce
1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
0,5 tbsp Maldon or any other flaky sea salt
2 tsp ground coriander
1,5 tsp ground cumin
2 Dutch or other spicy long red chilies, pierced with a sharp knife
800 g (weight in can) peeled whole tomatoes, drained, trimmed and squished with your hands
about 1/2 cup whole-milk Greek-style yoghurt
4 large eggs
a handful of coriander
extra virgin olive oil
To make the meatballs:
Put all the ingredients for the meatballs, except the oil, into a mixing boil and mix by kneading the meat. Make sure that all the ingredients are mixed, but be careful not to overwork the meat, otherwise you’ll end up with tough meatballs. Take a bit of the mixture in your hand, give it a few firm but still rather gentle squeezes and roll it into a ball. You want balls a bit bigger than a golf ball.
The recipe asks for a 8- to 9-liter Dutch oven with a lid, but as you can see I made it in two frying pans and improvised some lids. Add the oil to the pan and set it over high heat, swirl the oil in the pan. When it just begins to smoke, cook the meatballs in batches to avoid crowding, turning them occasionally with tongs, so they develop a beautiful deep-brown crust on all the sides. You don’t want to cook them too fast, if you see any black spots, turn down the heat a little. Keep at it until you’re happy with the color of each one and transfer them to a plate when they finish browning. Drain half the fat remaining in the pan.
To make the sauce:
Lower the heat to medium-high, add the onion, garlic and salt, and cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft and lightly browned and the garlic smells toasty and is deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, and chillies and cook for a minute, stirring constantly.
Turn the heat to low, add the tomatoes and simmer gently until the tomatoes begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, about 10 minutes. Add 4 cups of water and raise the heat to bring the sauce to a boil, then turn down it down to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes more.
Return the meatballs and their juices to the pot and stir gently to coat them in the sauce. Cover the pan, tweak the heat if needed to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes to let the flavors come together.
To finish the dish:
Turn the heat to low, add blobs of the yoghurt, and crack the eggs here and there into the sauce. Tear and sprinkle in the cilantro and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Cover the pot and return to medium heat. Cook until the eggs have just set, 10-15 minutes or if you don’t like runny yolks, a little bit longer.