At 2am I got out of bed and went to the kitchen to write down a recipe idea for a lamb, blood orange, feta and mint tapas, after all I had been in the mood for North African influenced food. Yes, 2am, if I have an idea and I don’t write it down it is apt to disappear. I will stop anything I am doing to write down a recipe. I went back to sleep and on Sunday I started working on my new idea. Made it, loved it and its many layers of flavor. I photographed it and went about my day. The recipe makes 16 meatballs so there were leftovers and now it was dinner time. This was a spur of the moment creation that happened at the stove and it, at least to us who ate it, is amazing. The blood orange zest, mint and feta all stand out and hit the palate in different places and at different times. This uses whole milk yogurt and I usually don’t care if people substitute but this is probably one time I would think twice and not use lowfat yogurt. Normally I would have sauteed the meatballs in the same pan as I was going to make the sauce but in this case I think by precooking them it keeps all the flavors from becoming muddled. I served it with a simple cous cous and some braised kale with pine nuts and raisins.
For the meatballs:
1/3 cup bread crumbs
3 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons orange zest or blood orange when in season,, finely grated, about 1 orange
1 teaspoon whole cumin, crushed in a mortar and pestal
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pound ground lamb
1/3 cup Manchego cheese, grated
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. To make the panada, in a large mixing bowl combine the milk, bread crumbs, zest and cumin and set aside. In a small saute pan, set over medium heat, add the olive oil and sweat the shallot and garlic until translucent. Season with salt and pepper remove it from the heat and let it cool a little and then add it to the bread mixture. Add salt and pepper, about a 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt and then combine the panada with the lamb, egg and Manchego. Using your hands mix it until the mixture becomes sticky and has absorbed all the egg.
3. Place parchment paper onto, or lightly oil, a sheet tray. I used a number 40 scoop to make the meatballs but a walnut sized piece would be about the same size. Roll the meatballs in your hands until they are smooth and round. Place all the meatballs onto the sheet tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. This can be done in advance and the meatballs can be stored, covered, in the fridge.
For the broken yogurt sauce:
1 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, cayanne, black pepper and sea salt
1 tablespoon paprika
3/4 teaspoons tumeric
1 onion, sliced thin, approx 1 cup
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 pinch saffron, a healthy pinch, crumbled
2 teaspoons Double concentrated tomato paste, the stuff in the tube
1 cup whole milk yogurt
1/2 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and white pepper
1/2 cup sheeps milk feta, crumbled finely
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
1. To make the Ethiopian spice mix combine all the spices, paprika and turmeric in a mixing bowl and mix to combine. This makes more than enough spice and it is a great addition to lentils and many other dishes. Remove 1 tablespoon of the mix and place the remainder in a jar with a lid and store.
2. Place a 10 inch saute pan over medium high heat. Add add the olive oil and onions and saute until the onions just start to brown. Add the garlic and once you start to smell the aroma of the garlic add 1 tablespoon of the Ethiopian spice mix then the saffron and tomato paste. Stir to combine the ingredients and then add the yogurt and cream. Let it come to a boil, this should break the yogurt into tiny globules, and then add the meatballs. Stir to coat the meatballs and reduce the heat to a simmer stirring occasionally to keep the sauce from scorching on the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the meatballs are warmed all the way through. Place the meatballs onto a warmed platter and top them with the sauce and then sprinkle with crumbled feta and mint. Serve.