I love meatballs in pretty much any form. There’s something homey and inviting about them just conceptually, no matter how dressed up they are (and yes, I recognize how pretentious the title of this dish sounds right next to my “homey” statement). For this dish, I returned to one of my favorite meats: lamb. Ground lamb always seems to wow me where I least expect it, and these meatballs kept the trend going.
For the meatballs, I wanted them to be relatively simple with all of the appropriate spices and aromatics that would make the lamb sing without masking it–such as touches of cumin, allspice, garlic, and parsley. A bit of creme fraiche helped to enrich them and keep the texture light and delicate.
With that out of the way, onto the sauce. I have always thought that lamb pairs wonderfully with fruit, so the idea of a pomegranate-centric barbecue sauce seemed like a fun one to play with. This sauce was bold and complex in flavor despite its seemingly simple sounding ingredient list. As the sauce simmered, I was worried it would blow the subtle lamb nuances away, but the end result showed no such problems–it was really quite amazing and the pairing worked wonderfully.
The nice thing about these meatballs is their versatility. I chose to make a meal of them with the cous cous (which really hit the spot), but you could also stick them with toothpicks and have a great appetizer.
- Lamb Meatballs
- 2 lbs ground lamb
- 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp whole cumin
- ground coriander
- dash ground allspice
- 1/2 onion
- half bunch parsley
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp creme fraiche/sour cream
- Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce
- 1/2 onion
- 16 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses (easier to find substitute: 16 oz POM juice, simmered for 30-45 minutes til syruppy but not burnt)
- 1/4 cup vinegar (I used a mix of raspberry and balsamic)
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground ancho chili
- red chili flakes
- dash smoked paprika
- ground cinnamon
- ground allspice
- ground cardamom
- Cous cous
- ~1.5 cup cous cous
- 2 cups chicken stock
- ~15 oz can chickpeas
- 1/2 onion
- 1/3 cup dried apricots
- 2-3 Tbsp butter
- wilted arugula
- pomegranate arils
Step one: make the meatballs. This is super easy: finely dice the onion, garlic, and parsely. Then mix everything together in a bowl by hand (use only half of the onion for the meatballs. Save the remaining half for the sauce), working it only as much as necessary to distribute everything reasonably well.
Next, form meatballs to whatever size suits you–maybe 1-2 inch in diameter. In a large pan, heat up some oil over medium-high heat and brown the meatballs for roughly 2-3 minutes on both sides. Work in batches to avoid crowding the pan. Set these aside for now.
At this point, we can move onto the sauce. Begin by sautéing that remaining diced 1/2 of an onion from earlier until it starts to brown (~10 minutes). Then, deglaze the pan with the crushed tomatoes and vinegar, scraping up all the browned bits. Add in all of the remaining ingredients for the sauce, stir, and raise to a boil.
Add the meatballs to the sauce, drop the heat to a simmer, partially cover, and let this cook for 40 minutes.
During the final 15 minutes of simmering the meatballs, you should start working on the cous cous.
Dice half an onion as well as the dried apricots. Sauté the onions in a pot with melted butter over medium-high heat. After 3 minutes, add the apricots and sauté for 5 minutes further. Scoop these out and set them aside for now.
Brown the cous cous in the same pan (with more melted butter if things are looking dry) for 2 minutes. Then, add the stock and raise to a boil, promptly dropping to a simmer. Cover the pot, simmer for 5 minutes, and then add in the rest of the ingredients (including the onion/apricot mix). Mix this up and continue to simmer (covered) for 5 minutes further.
At this point, everything is done. Plate some cous cous and top with four or five meatballs. I chose to garnish the plate with a bit of extra sauce, some lightly wilted arugula (just sauté some leaves in olive oil for a minute or two), and a few loose pomegranate arils. Enjoy!