Spinach Lamb Meatballs with Orange Tomato Sauce

I’m on the point of reviving my miniscule but surprisingly productive front garden vegetable plot. Two ignored survivors from last year are spinach and chard, so a handful of front garden spinach went into these lamb meatballs. Bright and bouncy, the meatballs were poached in orange zest-flavoured chicken stock then added to orange juice-flavoured tomato sauce. It’s a beguiling combination of flavours. Do try it. My quantities fed 3 decent appetites with garlicky bruschetta to swipe up the juices but with pasta would stretch to 4.

Serves 3-4

Prep: 30 min

Cook: 30 min

100g young spinach

1 onion

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp breadcrumbs

2 tbsp yoghurt

250g minced lamb

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 lemon

400g tin chopped tomatoes

½ chicken stock cube

1 juicing orange

     Place the washed spinach in a mixing bowl or saucepan and cover with a full kettle of boiling water. Leave while you crack on with the recipe. Halve, peel and finely chop the onion. Soften gently in a 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a spacious wide-based pan, adding a pinch of salt. Stir occasionally to cook evenly. Stir breadcrumbs and yoghurt together in a cup. Spread the lamb out in a mixing bowl and dust with bicarb and microplane-grated lemon zest. Scatter the yoghurt breadcrumbs over the meat and half the onion. Drain and squeeze the spinach dry, wrapping and squeezing with kitchen paper to make a tight green ball. Chop the spinach and crumble it over the meat. Use your hands to mix and mulch, working the mix as if making pastry or bread dough, continuing for a couple of minutes until formed into a cohesive ball. With wet hands, pinch off a nugget of mince, rolling between your hands aiming to make 26-28 walnut-sized balls. Dissolve the stock cube in 300ml boiling water in a wide-based sauté or frying pan. Microplane the orange zest over the top and bring to simmer. Drop in the meatballs and simmer for about 8 minutes, agitating the pan, so the balls roll and cook evenly. Meanwhile, add the tin of tomatoes to the first wide-based cooking pan and add juice from the orange. Simmer briskly, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, until sauce like. Using a perforated spoon, carefully lift the meat balls into the tomato sauce, adding the reduced liquid to make a sloppy tomato sauce. Simmer for a few minutes to consolidate the dish. Serve now or re-heat later.