Bejewelled Syrian Spiced Meatballs
This showstopper of a dish elevates the humble meatball into a glamorous star, bedecked in jewellery! Lamb works great here as it echoes the Middle Eastern theme and works great with the accompanying flavours, but you could use any ground meat you want to. Golden sultana raisins or toasted pistachios would be great additions or could stand in for ingredients you may not have, like the pomegranate. Aleppo pepper can be difficult to find, but it is worth the hunt! Spicy, fruity notes coming from these chili flakes really enhance the dish, but feel free to use Italian chili flakes, Korean gochugaru, Turkish urfa biber, Sichuan chili flakes, or Kashmiri chilis instead. A warmed piece of pita bread would be great to soak up any juices left on the plate!
 
  • Prep Time15 min
  • Cook Time30 min
  • Total Time45 min
  • Ready in45 min

Ingredients

For the Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground lamb (or a mix of 1/2 lb medium ground beef and 1/2 lb ground lamb)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tbsp Syrian Spice Blend (save leftover spice in tightly sealed container for other dishes!):
    •  1/2 tbsp whole allspice
    •  1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
    •  1/2 tsp cinnamon
    •  1/2 tsp nutmeg
    •  1/2 tsp dried ginger
    •  3 whole cloves or 1/4 tsp ground
    •  1/4 tsp green cardamom (green husks removed)
    •  1 tsp kosher salt

For the Rest

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups full fat plain yogurt
  • 2 Persian cucumbers (or 1/4 English cucumber)
  • 12 cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 3 radishes
  • 12 cherries
  • 1/2 pomegranate worth of seeds
  • Small bunch of fresh mint
  • Aleppo pepper flakes
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preparation

1

Preheat Oven to 350°F (175°C, gas mark 4)

2

Grind Syrian spice blend in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder until well ground. Set aside 2 tablespoon’s worth and put the rest away in a sealed container for later use.

3

Mince 1 clove of garlic.

4

In a large mixing bowl, combine the meat, spice, and garlic, using your hands to gently fold in the ingredients. The less it is handled, the softer your meatballs will be, so only mix until it is just combined. 

5

Next, form meatballs (about 2 inches in diameter) and set aside on a plate. Number of meatballs will vary by how large you make them. I would recommend making them larger than a golf ball, but smaller than a tennis ball.

6

Heat an oven safe frying pan (cast iron is perfect, but stainless steel will also work) over an element set at med-high heat and add a splash (approx 1 tbsp) of vegetable or olive oil. Add meatballs and sear, turning, allowing the outsides to form a rich brown crust, about 15 minutes. Once the meatballs are browned, transfer to middle rack in oven until they reach 160 degrees F inside (use a meat thermometer!), about 20 minutes (keep in mind that all ovens vary!)

7
Mince the other 2 cloves of garlic, smashing and scraping them with the side of your knife to form a coarse paste. Mix this paste with the yogurt and set aside. 
 
8
Slice the tomatoes, radishes and cucumbers into rounds or triangles (whichever you prefer) and set aside.
 
9
De-pit the cherries by gently but firmly pressing down on them with the side of your knife (watch out for cherry juice!) and plucking out the pit with your fingers. Tear the pitted cherries into twos or threes with your fingers. 
 
10
Break open the pomegranate and separate half of its seeds, removing any white pith.
 
11
Slice most of the fresh mint into ribbons, leaving a few leaves for presentation.
 
12
To plate, pour a teaspoon or two of olive oil onto the center of a plate. Gently dollop yogurt on top of the olive oil, allowing the olive oil to encircle the yogurt. Gently spread the yogurt into a circle, trying not to break the olive oil belt. This takes some practice, and isn’t important for the taste of the dish! Nestle 3 meatballs into the yogurt, making sure they don’t touch each other. Now artfully sprinkle over your cucumbers, tomatoes, cherries, radishes, pomegranate seeds, mint leaves, mint ribbons and chili flakes.
 
13
Serve immediately and enjoy!
 
 

Any extra notes can go here. 

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