Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lamb meatballs with beetroot and dill

Makes 12-16 (enough for 4 or more)

Beetroot, a finer vegetable which is often totally underated I think you'll struggle to find, in the same league as celeriac and Jerusalem artichokes I feel. More often than not we're too used to the pickled jars of beetroot, which has clouded the products real depth of flavour and diversity as an ingredient. Here I'm taking raw specimens and folding them into a meatball recipe, and as you'll see they make up a significant percentage of the mix to ensure their flavour is noticed rather than masked.

75g fine or medium cracked wheat
250g raw beetroot
A small to medium onion
400g minced lamb
2 large cloves, or even 3, of garlic
2 heaped tblsp of chopped dill
A small handful of parsley

For the dressing
1/3 of a cucumber
the leaves from 4 or 5 sprigs of mint
1 tblsp capers
200g yogurt

Put the cracked wheat in a bowl; pour over enough boiling water to cover, then set aside to swell. Peel the beetroot and the onion then grate them coarsely into a large bowl. Add the minced lamb, the peeled and crushed garlic, the dill, parsley and a generous grinding of salt and black pepper.

Squeeze any water from the cracked wheat with your hands and mix into the meat. Mix everything together thoroughly, then squidge the mince into little patties about the size of a flattened golf ball, cover with cling film (tight, to stop the garlic infusing the fridge!), then chill for at least an hour.

Set the oven at 180c/gas mark 4. Make the dressing by grating the cucumber coarsely and leaving it in a colander, lightly sprinkled with salt, for half an hour. Squeeze it dry then mix it with the chopped mint, capers and yogurt. Season with salt and black pepper.

Heat a non-stick pan, brush the patties with a little groundnut oil and fry till golden on both sides. Try not to move the meatballs around very much when they are cooking, otherwise they may fall apart.

Once they are lightly browned on each side, carefully lift them into a baking dish and finish in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes. (You can only tell if they are done by tasting one, as the beetroot gives them a rich red colour, making it impossible to gauge by sight whether they are cooked.) Drizzle with the cucumber dressing and eat