Middle-Eastern Lamb Polpettine with Houmous

by sophie on January 17, 2007

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I am more than happy to spend a bit extra to eat organic but there’s no getting away from the fact that organic meat costs more. I’m not going to buy non-organic meat so this leaves me with two strategies to play with, both of which I use. The first is to eat less meat, which many of us are choosing to do for health reasons. The second is to go for cheaper cuts, hence my purchase last weekend of a pack of lovely organic lamb mince. My usual recipe choice for this is Nigella Lawson’s “Greekish Lamb Pasta” from her Forever Summer book, a Mediterranean take on spag bol which I serve with crumbled feta and chopped fresh mint over the top (delish but decidedly not a low cal option) . This time I felt in need of something different and a bit lighter (it is January after all). The resulting dinner was lamb, sultana and mint polpettine served on a big flat tortilla that had been spread with houmous and then rocket and pinenuts added at the end for a bit of crunch.

Polpettine are those satisfyingly savoury tiny little meatballs with lovely crunchy but chewy golden crusty bits on the outside. I have only just realised that they are also significantly easy to cook than their larger cousins; being small they cook through so quickly and obviously that you never have the dilemma of sacrificing one to be cut in half to test for ‘doneness’. Once assembled you could I suppose fold the whole thing up wrap stylee but it appeals to my greedy side to have something more akin to a large but floppy pizza that fills the entire plate.

The whole meal takes about 15 minutes from start to finish and as I’m not very keen on washing up I like that you can get by with just one mixing bowl and a small frying pan. I can also attest to its simplicity – it turned out fine despite the cook consuming half a bottle of red wine beforehand. We used houmous with olives but plain would be fine. I have used dried mint here as that is what I happened to have but use fresh if you have it, or if not I’m sure dried oregano would be fine. It seemed a bit unnecessary to air-freight in a such a small part of the meal but then I spoilt my lofty ethical ideals buy unthinkingly buying rocket imported from Kenya.

Depending upon what meat is available this is also very tasty with thinly strips of slightly rare steak instead of the meatballs. If you were to go down this route I would skip the pinenuts and go for thin slices of red onion (keep the lemon juice). Rest the steak for a couple of minutes before you assemble everything and drizzle the meat juices over.

Recipe for Middle-Eastern style Polpettine with Houmous

Very simple (takes about 15 minutes all in) but you do need to get everything out and ready before you start cooking.

For the meatballs
250g organic lamb mince
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sultanas
1 teaspoon dried mint (1 tablespoon fresh mint)
1 medium egg
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil to fry

To serve
2 floury, flat tortilla
1 tablespoon pinenuts
3 tablespoons houmous (approximately)
2 handfuls of rocket

lemon juice and olive oil to drizzle over at the end

Before you start put your plates somewhere warm like under the grill or in a bowl of hot water.

In a small frying pan, heat the pinenuts until they start to turn golden then put to one side.

Put the meatball ingredients (lamb, sultanas, garlic, mint, egg, pepper) together in a bowl and mix together with your hands. Use a teaspoon to make about 10 roughly ball shaped patties. It doesn’t matter if they seem a bit too soggy and collapse a bit, they don’t need to be neat (see mine).

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in the small frying pan and add the polpettine. Leave them alone for a couple of minutes – the less you fiddle with them the more they will develop the right golden crispy bits. When they have started to colour most of the way up the sides turn them over and cook until golden on both sides.

Put the tortilla on the warm plates (you can given them 30 secs in the microwave if you have one but cold works fine). Slather over the houmous and a generous handful of rocket. Place the meatballs vaguely evenly spaced and sprinkle over the toasted pinenuts. If you want to drizzle over some olive oil and/or lemon juice. Serve very quickly before the meatballs get cold!

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