Not sure I make lamb meatballs because it’s an excuse to eat the tzatziki sauce that belongs with them, or make the tzatziki in order to indulge in the lamb meatballs. Either way, they’re perfect pals, they go everywhere together. The Greeks figured out a while back that you can’t make one without the other, or, that you could but you shouldn’t.
So, three recipes for a Greek-inspired spring supper: one for lamb meatballs, another for its sidekick, tzatziki, along with saffron yogurt rice that’s such a nice bed for the meatballs.
Bon Appetite, Kalí óreksi, Happy Spring.
Spicy Lamb Meatballs Recipe
Ingredients: 1# ground lamb/ 1/4 C half & half/ 1/2 (or 1 C) finely chopped onion, sautéed/ 1 clove garlic, finely chopped and added to onion sauté/ 1 egg, whisked/ And lots of spicy flavor: 1 t each coriander and cumin seed, toasted lightly in dry sauté pan and then ground with mortar and pestle (or in a coffee grinder) along with 1 t kosher salt/ 1 t ground cumin, 1/4 t each cinnamon and turmeric, 1 – 2 t chopped fresh mint, 1 t lemon zest, 1/4 C chopped fresh parsley, 1 t pepper or to taste.
Directions: Sauté onion until soft (about 10 minutes), adding garlic when onions are nearly done/ Set aside to cool/ Meanwhile, mix egg and half & half together and add to larger bowl with the ground lamb/ Mix lightly with clean hands/ Add all the spices and chopped herbs, mix together, but don’t overwork – in order to keep meatballs tender/ Add cooled onions and mix again.
Double this recipe and freeze the meatball mixture or the meatballs. Freeze uncooked meatballs on a cookie sheet for several hours until firm, and then transfer to an airtight container or zip lock bag.
Using fingers or a small spoon, make meatballs of a uniform, smallish size/ A pound will make 15 – 25 depending on size/ Place on cookie sheet and directly into 400 degree oven for 20 minutes (again, depending on size, could be a little less or a little longer)/ Or, sauté with olive oil in batches, turning every few minutes to brown/ Cook on each side, 15- 20 minutes total.
Serve with tzatziki sauce and saffron rice or make a sandwich, minus the rice, with pita bread, halved meatballs, tzatziki, a little red onion, lettuce and tomato.
Tzatziki Sauce Recipe
Serve cold with any lamb dish or by itself as a refreshing sauce or salad.
*The yogurt and cucumber are typically placed in sieves – cucumbers chopped and salted – and their natural liquids allowed to drain for 30 minutes or so. This prevents tzatziki from becoming too liquidy. Rinse salted, drained cukes before adding to the mix. Greek yogurt and seeded English cucumber tend not to have much liquid, making the preparation process a little simpler.
Saffron & Yogurt Rice Recipe
Serves 4 – 6.
Ingredients & Directions: 2 C rinsed and drained Basmati rice, 4 C water, 1/4 – 1/3 C plain Greek yogurt, pinch or a few strands of saffron, 1 t lemon zest, 1/2 t turmeric, 1 t salt/ Stir together in pot, bring to simmer and cook with lid on until water has been absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 minutes.