Really, it is the sauce that makes these tasty little meatballs extra special. The contrast of a yogurt or kefir based, creamy sauce with added lemon, garlic and mint, just sets off the savory lamb so well. The same sauce can be used for a salad of sliced cucumbers with extra mint too.
I bought the book, The Silk Road Gourmet, by Laura Kelley, quite awhile ago, and as these things happen, only made two things from her book, both excellent - one recipe, was a Pomegranate- Cardamom Lamb Roast, and another, Meatballs with Lemon Sauce, though I did make that one several times, due to its excellence. This is a re-visitation, and there is so much more in that book needing to be cooked up. Wonderful recipes from her travels following the ancient "Silk Road" through Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, noting the connections and links between the different cuisines and cultures.
This started with some locally sourced ground lamb in our Natural Foods store, which truth be told, one of the reasons I picked it up was just to help keep everything else in my little cooler cool, as it was frozen. I do that. Get frozen meats to act as blue ice till I get errands done and home.
I remembered this book shortly after and wanted to try another recipe for meatballs. Kelley says this was the first Afghan dish she ever ate, and "over the years, I've reconstructed the recipe until, I believe, it's just right." Yes, it is.
Meatballs with Garlic and Mint
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium tomato, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 lb. ground lamb (or beef)
2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 small bunch fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (10-15 sprigs)
1 1/2 tablespoons dried mint (I used fresh)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a food processor or blender, combine all of the ingredients except the meat and blend lightly so that the vegetables are chopped, but still have their form. Then add the meat and blend again until the vegetables and herbs are well integrated with the meat. Transfer into a bowl and chill for several hours to firm the mixture up.
Preheat broiler on highest setting. Remove from refrigerator and roll the meatballs about 2 inches in diameter. Place on a baking sheet that has been oiled or sprayed.
Cook about 6 inches from the flame for 5 minutes on each side. If the meat still feels soft to the touch, cook another few minutes, but do not let the meatballs burn. Serve with plain basmati rice or Saffron Rice (I served with fried rice), and plenty of Yogurt with Garlic and Mint.
Yogurt with Garlic and Mint Sauce
1 cup yogurt or kefir
1 small garlic clove, mashed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh mint, minced or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 teaspoon salt
Blend all ingredients well and serve alongside the meatballs and some sliced cucumbers. I'll be sending this off to Beth Fish for her Weekend Cooking meme. Be sure to check out all the lovely posts over there.