Moroccan Meatballs with Mint

This is a usefully make ahead dinner party dish but is one I’ve made regularly for mid-week meals when I’ve run out of ideas for minced lamb. All the ingredients, except ras al hanout, the Moroccan spice mix that gives the dish its hint of the Kasbah flavours, are store cupboard. The meatballs are smaller than usual, about the size of a cherry tomato, and they bob about in thick onion gravy made aromatic with ras el hanout (the national spice mix) and sweetened with sultanas. The finale, which gives a fresh lively contrast or taste and colour are peas and chopped mint. This is a soupy dish best served in bowls and spoon and fork that is good with a spoonful of cous cous to soak up the juices.

Serves 6

Prep: 45 min

Cook: 45 min

2 Spanish onions

2 tbsp cooking oil or half butter and half oil

2 tsp ras al hanout

2 tbsp sultanas

1 chicken stock cube dissolved in 600ml boiling water

750g minced lamb

1 ½ tsp ground cumin

about 40 mint leaves

1 egg yolk

500g frozen peas

squeeze of lemon

     Halve, peel and finely finely slice 1 ½ onions. Heat the oil or butter and oil in a spacious, lidded sauté or large frying pan over a high heat. Toss the onions around for a few minutes until beginning to colour. Add the ras al hanout, sultanas, and 250ml of stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat so the liquid simmers, cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for a few minutes until the onions are soft, the sultanas plump and the liquid reduced to make juicy gravy. Add ½ tsp salt. Meanwhile, grate the reserved half an onion. Chop about half the mint leaves. Place the lamb in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle over the onion, mint, cumin, a decent seasoning of salt and pepper, and add the egg yolk. Mix well, mulching together with your hands, forming the mixture into a ball. Rinse your hands, shake dry, then pinch off enough of the meat mixture to roll around between your hands to make balls the size of a cherry tomato. You should end up with at least 60 balls. Add the remaining stock, bring the onion gravy back to the boil and add the meatballs. Adjust the heat so the gravy bubbles gently over the balls, allowing them darken and firm. Roll them around so they cook evenly, add the peas and mint and cook until tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Serve hot.