Sunday, March 13, 2016

Persian Lamb Meatballs

Tart barberries give these lamb meatballs or koofteh berenji a subtle edge, mellowed by the addition of lentils and rice. This is a tasty one-pot meal to feed a hungry family.

This week Sunday Supper is celebrating National Meatball Day, albeit just a little late. My attitude is that anytime is a good time for meatballs, and I’m sure our host this week, Sue of Palatable Pastime, would agree. Almost 50 Sunday Supper tastemakers certainly do! Make sure scroll down to check out the link list below for an amazing array of meatball recipes.

A couple of years ago, when my sister and a friend were visiting me here in Dubai, we went on a foodie tour with Frying Pan Adventures, something I would highly recommend to anyone who travels here and has an interest in foods of the world. One of the stops was a lovely little shop that sold all manner of Persian and Arabic ingredients, including barberries. I had never heard of barberries so, of course, I had to buy some. They are used in many traditional Iranian dishes, especially rice pilaf and lend both a tart flavor and a beautiful ruby highlights.

This meatball recipe is adapted from one in Delicious. magazine’s March 2015 edition.

For the meatballs:
3/4 cup or 150g basmati rice
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning
Scant 1/2 cup or 100g green lentils
1 lb 1 1/2 oz or 495g ground lamb
Small bunch parsley
Small bunch cilantro
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 large onion
2 handfuls dried barberries, stems picked out and discarded, if any are present
3 eggs
Black pepper

For the sauce:
Olive oil for frying
1 large onion
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tomato purée
14 oz or 400g can chopped tomatoes

To serve:
Chopped green onions or more cilantro and parsley
Plain yogurt

Finely chop your parsley and cilantro. Chop one onion finely and slice the other as thinly as you can manage. Finely mince the garlic or put it through a garlic press.

Bring one liter or 4 1/4 cups water to the boil in a large pot. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and add in the rice. Boil for seven minutes then drain the rice and set aside to cool.

Repeat the process with the lentils but reduce the heat to medium after you add them to the boiling, salted water and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the lentils are just cooked. Drain, rinse and set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled rice, lentils, ground lamb, herbs, flour, turmeric, and a generous sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Shape the mixture into 12 large meatballs. Traditionally, they should be rugby ball-shaped but I made mine round.

Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil into a large deep saucepan with a lid and gently fry the sliced onions until they soften and start to color slightly.

Add in the teaspoon of ground turmeric and the garlic and fry for a few more minutes.

Pour 1 liter or 4 1/4 cups water into the saucepan then add in the tomato purée and stir well. Sprinkle on some more fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add the can of chopped tomatoes and bring to the boil, then turn the fire down to a medium heat. Carefully add the meatballs to the pan, one by one.

Partially cover the pan with the lid, leaving it slightly ajar, and cook the meatballs for 1 1/4-1 1/2 hours.

Once the cooking time is done, taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. Sprinkle on some chopped green onions. Serve with yogurt and flatbread.


You might also like my Sopa de Albondigas, Easy Meatballs á la Jamie Oliver, Porcupine Balls or my grandmother's favorite spaghetti sauce with meatballs.

And here are all the wonderful Sunday Supper recipes:

Meatball Appetizers and Soup
Main Dish Meatballs
Meatball Desserts

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