I’m currently in Edinburgh, helping out a friend who’s recently had an operation. Part of my plan for the week has been to get her healing up by cooking things which are tasty and full of good things; we’ve been breakfasting on yoghurt, blueberries and raw almonds; drinking unsweetened cranberry juice diluted with fizzy water; chomping our way through antioxidant-dense sweet potatoes – I don’t think I’ve ever consumed so many vitamins in such a short period before.
I made these meatballs a couple of evenings ago, when the extremely lovely Marsha Klein came round to visit us for dinner and conversation about general anaesthetic. The wounded GSE is, I have noticed, not so keen on vegetables on their own, so I hid a great wodge of spinach (niacin, zinc and vitamin-rich stuff, although the iron content is overstated by Popeye) in the meatballs along with some big handfuls of herbs. A bit of stale bread, soaked in milk, makes these really light and toothsome, and the herbs, lemon and coriander seeds give them a lovely aromatic lift. Alongside some buttered, herby rice; green beans stir-fried with garlic and lemon juice; some Greek butter beans and imam bayaldi from the deli; and a hearty dollop of home-made tzatziki (directions below), these went down an absolute treat. To make enough health-giving meatballs to serve four, you’ll need:
500g minced lamb
2 thick slices stale white bread
4 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
100g raw baby spinach leaves
25g each fresh coriander, parsley and mint
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
Zest of 1 lemon
1½ teaspoons salt
Several hefty turns of the pepper grinder
Olive oil to fry
6 inches of cucumber, sliced into 1-inch slivers
6 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
20g fresh mint
1 small clove garlic
Tear the bread into little pieces about the size of your fingernail, and soak them in the milk in a small bowl. Dice the onion and garlic finely, chop the herbs and spinach and grind the coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle. Use your hands to squeeze together the lamb, soaked bread, and all the other meatball ingredients except the olive oil until you have distributed everything evenly – keep squeezing as you go, and you’ll find everything sticks together quite satisfyingly. Roll into meatballs about the size of a ping-pong ball, place them on a plate and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow them to firm up. (This will prevent the meatballs from coming apart while cooking, and helps them keep a nice round shape.)
While the meatballs are cooking, chop the cucumber into inch-long sections and julienne (cut into matchsticks) each of these finely. Crush the garlic clove and chop up the mint, then stir the cucumber, garlic and mint into the yoghurt. Set aside.
When you are ready to cook the meatballs, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry them, turning regularly to make sure they are browned all over, for 15 minutes. Serve with a dollop of tzatziki, and feel free to nix all those health benefits by drinking a large glass of red wine while you eat.