Thursday, 21 January 2010

Ottolenghi's meatballs baked in tahini

I've been in a bit of an Ottolenghi kick the last while. The man has a genius for putting the bold and brassy tastes I love together to make something even better. I just can't get enough of him. You might say I have the overwhelming devotion of a new convert (g).

This is recipe from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook is a variation of an Arab dish I made some time back based on a recipe from The Arab Table by May Bsisu that I found quoted on NPR.

Both recipes feature spiced mincemeat baked in a tart-but-creamy tahini sauce. In May Bsisu's version, the meat is pressed into the baking dish in meatloaf fashion, while it is formed into meatballs in this rendering. Where May Bsisu's sauce is sharpened with lemon juice, Ottolenghi's takes its tang from vinegar. Given the title of my blog, you probably won't be surprised to learn that I prefer the lemony version; but making the kafta into balls is a pretty good idea too.

I also adore the parsley and lemon zest topping in the Ottolenghi version. I've doubled the amount of lemon zest here, but that's totally up to you.

You can also vary the spices depending on your taste or whim. I'm not a big fan of allspice, so I reduced the amount of that spice and ramped up the others.

This was a big hit with the Young Man, who can't seem to get enough of meatballs in all their incarnations, and I make some pretty "out-there" versions (g). Despite the ordinary-sounding name given this dish, some might consider it a little out-there. Not to worry. It is the real deal and would make a lovely introduction to Arab cuisine, even for the less adventurous. Just make sure there are no sesame-averse people in your crowd.

Next time, I'm going to cross the two recipes and see what we come up with!

Meatballs baked in tahini

Serves 4-6

35 g stale white bread, crusts removed
600 g minced meat
3 garlic cloves, crushed
35 g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg
light olive oil for frying
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
grated zest of 1 lemon, to garnish

For the tahini sauce
150 ml tahini paste
150 ml water
70 ml white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
a pinch of salt

1 First make the tahini sauce. In a bowl, mix together the tahini paste, water, vinegar, garlic and salt. Whisk well until it turns smooth and creamy, with a thick, sauce-like consistency. You might need to add some more water. Set the sauce aside while you make the meatballs.

2 Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Soak the bread in cold water for 2-3 min until it goes soft. Squeeze out most of the water and crumble the bread into a mixing bowl. Add the minced meat, garlic, parsley, salt, spices and egg and mix well with your hands.

3 Shape the meat mixture into balls, roughly the size of golf balls, Pour a 5 mm depth of light olive oil into a large frying pan. Heat it up, being careful it doesn't get too hot or it will spit all over when frying. Shallow fry the meatballs in small batches, turning them round as you go, until they are uniformly brown on the outside.

4 Put the meatballs on kitchen paper to soak up the oil and then arrange them in a single layer in an ovenproof serving dish. Place in the oven for 5 min. Carefully remove from the oven, pour the tahini sauce over and around the meatballs and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. The tahini will take on just a little bit of colour and thicken up; the meatballs should be cooked through. Transfer to individual plates, garnish liberally with the parsley and lemon zest and serve at once.


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