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Invalid meatballs

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:

Meatballs
500g minced lamb
2 thick slices stale white bread
50ml milk
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

Tzatziki
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.

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10 comments to Invalid meatballs

  • Love lamb meatballs, and these look both virtuous and moreish with all that garlic, coriander and lemon – your friend must have devoured them :)

  • Liz

    It's a total mystery to me that so much of the food that's marketed as being healthy has to taste of sawdust. Houpla coriander, say I.

  • Completely agree, it's amazing what a few herbs and spices can do to lift the humblest, healthiest of dishes. Coriander is the way to go…

  • Had read about your Lille trip weeka ago and I'm slowly meeting y'all. Niamh from 'eat like a girl' and I know someone in common; now I bought 'Olive' yesterday(on my way back to the Netherlands from London)and have read all about you! Well,some about you! Only a few more left! Cheers

  • Unfortunately my local Cost Cutter doesn't stock imam bayaldi. They do have some potatoes though.

    My meatballs will consequently be invalid, but very tasty nevertheless.

  • A big hug to you and GSE – I hope she's feeling better very soon. And, speaking as a pseudo-scientist (library science…), I'm putting money on red wine having all sorts of health benefits when combined with delicious meatballs.

  • I'm not allowed alcohol Lorna – weeps.

    The meatballs were very delicious, I must say.

  • Anonymous

    The meatballs were indeed delicious and, combined with good company and red wine (for some of us anyway!) made for an extremely pleasant evening. Marsha (Google won't let me sign in)

  • These were very popular with some friends this evening – of course, I gave you all the credit!

  • You are a good friend and these meatballs look nice. May your friend get better very very soon.

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