When my wife and daughter head down country to my in-laws for the weekend I indulge. I scour the net and through the myriad of cookbooks we have on the shelves in the kitchen looking for recipes that demand beef, lamb, anchovies, capers or chillies. Essentially ingredients that neither my wife nor daughter are fond of. Out of this melange I create food that brings me much joy and comfort. A treat. I like it that way. An occasional moment celebrated with a taste, an aroma, a texture.
The last dish I cooked while on my own was an Ottolenghi recipe for beef and lamb meatballs with broad beans and lemon. It’s an absolute delight and the inclusion of broad beans – fava beans if you’re in America – elevates it to the top of my ‘what to eat when on my own’ list. What I would say about this recipe is that it’s worth making your own chicken stock for. I always make it my business to make stock at the beginning of every week. My butcher gives me carcasses and I make up a large batch on Mondays that usually gets us through the week. It’s a habit worth forming. But, if you don’t have your own stock then grab yourself a cube.
Just writing this is making me salivate…so here we go.
Ingredients (serves 4 and makes about 20 meatballs)
4 tbsp olive oil
350 g broad beans, fresh or frozen
4 whole thyme sprigs
6 garlic cloves, sliced
8 spring onions, cut at an angle into 2cm segments
2½ tbsp lemon juice
500 ml chicken stock
Salt and black pepper
1 1/2 tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley, mint, dill and coriander, to finish
For the meatballs
300 g minced beef
150 g minced lamb
1 medium onion, finely chopped
120 g breadcrumbs
2 tbsp each chopped flat-leaf parsley, mint, dill and coriander, plus ½ tbsp extra of each to finish
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
4 tsp baharat spice mix (recipe below)
4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp capers, chopped
1 egg, beaten
Put all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl. Add 3/4 teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper and mix well with your hands. Form into balls about the same size of ping-pong balls. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in an extra large frying pan for which you have a lid. Sear half the meatballs over a medium heat, turning them until they are brown all over, about five minutes. Remove from the pan, add another 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the pan and cook the other batch of meatballs. Once browned all over, remove these from the pan, too, then wipe it clean with kitchen towel.
While the meatballs are cooking, throw the broad beans into a pot with plenty of salted boiling water and blanch for two minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water, then remove and discard the skins from half the broad beans.
Heat the remaining oil in the meatball pan, add the thyme, garlic and spring onion, and sauté over a medium heat for three minutes. Add the unshelled broad beans, one and a half tablespoons of the lemon juice, 80ml of the stock, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. The beans should be almost covered by liquid. Pop on the lid and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.
Return the meatballs to the pan, add the remaining stock, cover again and simmer gently for 25 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. If it is still very runny, remove the lid and reduce a little. Once the meatballs stop cooking, they will soak up a lot of the juices, so make sure there is still plenty of sauce at this point. You can leave the meatballs now, off the heat, until you’re ready to serve.
Just before serving, reheat the meatballs and add a little water, if needed, to get enough sauce. Gently stir in the remaining herbs, lemon juice and the shelled broad beans and serve immediately.
Baharat Spice Mix
Baharat is a Middle Eastern blend of spices popular from Turkey to Egypt and Iran used in a wide variety of dishes from soups, rice, tabbouleh and stews.
It is very easy to make your own with a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. I got my mix from a Tunisian friend who sells spices at our local market. It made him smile when I asked for it. You’ll probably get it in any spice shop. If not improvise. Here is Sami and Yotam’s recipe courtesy of their Jerusalem cookbook from where I got this recipe.
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick, broken
½ teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
½ whole nutmeg, grated
Place all of the spices in a spice grinder and grind until a fine powder is achieved. Leftover spice blend can be stored in an airtight container for up to 8 weeks.