So I have eaten at Ottolenghi but never cooked the food. It always seemed a little too fiddly, too many ingredients and, I thought, would take too much time. Anyway, I apologise and say I am wrong on all counts. This is a lovely novel way to have lamb this weekend, and this is taken from the Nopi cookbook. It has all the flavours of the east, with a delicate sauce over the gently cooked swiss chard (now in season and stocked in good greengrocers). Most if not all these dry ingredients will be in your store cupboard, and brought together in this recipe produce a highly flavoured and wonderful meal. Serves 6, can be made the day before and reheated (and like most things in that category improves the flavour).
1kg lamb mince.
150g fresh breadcrumbs.
70g pine nuts, toasted.
1 tsp ground cinnamon.
2 tsp ground coriander.
1/2 tsp dried mint.
4 tsp ground allspice.
4 garlic cloves (crushed).
60ml olive oil.
1 medium onion, finely chopped (120g).
1 red chilli (de-seeded and finely diced).
300g Swiss chard, white stalks removed and green leaves roughly shredded.
300ml chicken stock.
40ml lemon juice.
500g Greek yoghurt.
1 tbsp cornflour (mixed to a paste with 2 tsp water).
1 egg, lightly beaten.
seeds of 1 medium pomegranate (150g) (optional).
20g coriander leaves (roughly chopped).
coarse sea salt and black pepper.
Make the Meatballs:
- Lamb mince, breadcrumbs, pine nuts, cinnamon, coriander and mint into a large bowl and add half of the allspice, half of the garlic, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
- Mix the lot together. You can then shape these how you want – my preference is shape into 4-inch meatballs, each weighing about 6 ounces each. This makes about 12 balls.
Make the Chard Sauce:
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium saucepan add the onion and the remaining garlic. Fry over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onions have softened but not taken on any colour.
- Add the chili and chard and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the chard has wilted. Stir in the remaining allspice, along with the chicken stock and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.
- Place the yogurt, cornstarch paste, and egg in a large mixing bowl with 2/3 of cup of water. Whisk the lot together forming a smooth paste. Gradually spoon the hot chard mixture into the yogurt, stirring well after each addition, until the two mixtures are combined. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, along with a good crack of black pepper; stir, and set aside.
Cook the Meatballs:
- Pour the remaining oil into a large, high-sided sauté pan and place over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs and fry for 4 minutes, turning a few times so that all sides get browned. Remove from the pan and repeat with the remaining batch, adding a little bit more oil if you need to.
- Wipe out the pan and pour in the yogurt sauce. Bring to a very gentle simmer over medium-low heat — it should barely be bubbling — stirring continuously in one direction to prevent the yogurt from curdling. Return the meatballs to the pan — they should just be covered with sauce — and cook over low heat, covered for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.
Serve at once, while the pomegranate seeds and cilantro sprinkled on top.