Lamb & Beef Meatballs with Broad Beans & Lemon – The Colours of Spring on a Plate

Broad Beans to me mean spring. Perhaps because in Spain we would normally be harvesting our own from early spring. That beautiful vibrant green of the inner pod is the colour of new life springing from the earth. It’s enough to make you start writing poems about daffodils and wandering lonely as a cloud.

Well, it’s enough to inspire me to cook with them and the discovery (yes, at heart I’m a country girl who normally reaps what she sows) of frozen broad beans has been very exciting for me. Add to this the delightful recipes of Mr Yotam Ottolenghi and his Jerusalem cookbook (again) and I had no choice but to make his Meatballs with Broad Beans and Lemon.

Meatballs with Broad Beans Main Photo

Enough waxing lyrical and on with the cooking.

Ingredients

  • 4 ½ tablespoons of olive oil
  • 350g broad beans (fresh or frozen)
  • 4 whole thyme sprigs
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 8 spring onions cut into 2cm segments, at an angle if you want to be fancy
  • 2 ½ tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 500ml of chicken stock
  • Salt & black pepper

For the meatballs

  • 300g of minced beef
  • 150g minced lamb
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 120g fresh breadcrumbs (I used a little less and it was fine)
  • 2 tablespoons each of chopped flat leaf parsley, mint, dill and coriander plus about ½ tablespoon of each to finish the dish
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of baharat spice mix (I had to make mine but it was easy)
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped capers (I couldn’t find any but it was still tasty without)
  • 1 egg, beaten

Makes about 20-24 meatballs about the size of ping pong balls

Place all the meatballs ingredients into a large bowl and add salt and pepper to taste and mix well with your hands. Form into small meatballs and sear them in batches with some of the olive oil until browned. Remove from pan and wipe the pan clean.

Blanch the broad beans in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes then run under cold water. Remove the skins from about half the beans and discard the skins. Keep the beans separate from each other.

Lamb & Beef Meatballs (2)

Heat the remaining oil in the pan you used previously and add the thyme, garlic and spring onions and sauté over a medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add the unshelled broad beans, 1 ½ tablespoons of lemon juice, 80ml of stock, a little salt and plenty of black pepper. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes.

Now add the meatballs and remaining stock, cover and continue to simmer for about 25 minutes. This can be made ahead but as they cool, the meatballs will continue to absorb the stock. If necessary, add a little water when reheating. Before serving taste for seasoning, add the remaining herbs, lemon juice and the shelled beans.  Delicious with rice.

It’s a fabulous dish to make for guests as it can be prepared ahead and pulled together at the last minute. I do confess to having been outraged at having to buy all the herbs I would normally just step outside my back door to pick. But..buying or picking, it’s a stunning dish and well worth the little bit of effort you have to put in.

For another beautiful Ottolenghi meatball dish, check out my recipe for Lamb with Quince, Pomegranate and Coriander.

Something Old, Something New – Melokhia

Don’t you just love it when you discover a new ingredient, something you’ve never come across before that just leaps out at out and says…buy me, try me, taste me! Or is it just me?  No, I didn’t think so.

Melokhia Soup (1)

The other day I popped in to see my new chum at the Caribbean shop and he had bunches of something green and leafy. It looked similar to bunches of basil which has sprouted a bit too high. It was, he informed me, Melokhia (there are many variations on the spelling) and was used a lot in Arab cooking. If you don’t like the texture of okra, he said, don’t buy it. Well, I do like okra, so I did buy it, and to be honest, I didn’t find anything slimey or slippery about it at all, it adds texture to a simple soup.

I got straight onto the phone to my oracle of Arab recipes, my mum, and she knew immediately what I was talking about and told me that she had bought it dried and made a recipe from Claudia Roden’s A New Book of Middle Eastern Food. I jotted down the details to make it, and then promptly ordered the book together with another of hers Arabesque which I am now devouring slowly.

Ms Roden tells us “Melokhia is one of Egypt’s National dishes, an ancient peasant soup”. As I like to embrace my inner ancient peasant, I knew this was for me. Fear not if you can’t get hold of it, use spinach or some delicate green leafed vegetable.  I was thinking of something old, something new as this is essentially a chicken or vegetable soup recipe with the added new ingredient.  Sorry the photos don’t look that exciting, it’s not a looker, but it really wins points on flavour.

Ingredients (these are my scaled down version, the recipe calls for double)

  • 1.25 litres of chicken (or meat stock, but I think vegetable would be good too) reserve the meat if using
  • 500g of melokhia (leaves only), washed and chopped (or 60g of dried melokhia crushed and saked in hot water until doubled in size)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Seasoning
  • Olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon of ground coriander
  • Cayenne pepper (I used pimenton)

Bring the stock to the boil and add the fresh or reconstituted melokhia and boil for 10 (fresh) or 30 (dried) minutes. Prepare a garlic sauce  by frying crushed garlic and a little salt in a small amount of oil. When the garlic is golden add the coriander and cayenne, mix to a paste and fry for a few moments longer.

Add the paste to the soup and simmer for a few minutes more.

This can be served as is or with rice. I added in the vegetables and chicken from my stock. The flavour is delicate from the Melokhia, and it was exciting to be discovering a new ingredient and rediscovering the wonderful recipes of Claudia Roden.