Great balls of fire

[Recipe 1] LAMB, PUMPKIN and LEMON KÖFTES transform into
Hi all. Hope you had an excellent weekend. We went to a garage sale, attended two Christmas gatherings and set up the Christmas tree; so ours was full and fun.
I’m sitting here, wine in hand, feeling pretty great actually. We have a system in place (us old people like routines), where one night a week the husband heads back to the studio (ie. the place where we work) and gets out his easel and canvases for a painting session, while I sit here blogging to my heart’s content. I LOVE it. I write my weekly blog post, sort out recipes and fuel my Pinterest addiction; and he releases his creative juices. Bliss.
So… onto this week’s recipes… these two have been stuffed in my bulging recipe file for ages, and I was inspired to finally share them after reading Ali’s fab post recently. We had friends over for a simple BBQ a couple of weekends ago and lamb köftes (Middle Eastern football-shaped meatballs) were our glamorous replacement for hamburgers. They go down beautifully with adults and kids too. I like mine with pumpkin added and a dash of lemon rind for zing. You can plug them with almost any vegies though – I’ve made them in the past with grated carrot and even beetroot!
The accompanying tahini sauce takes seconds to make – the perfect task for young helpers. The 5-minute lentil and tomato salad is also a breeze to whip up. The harissa is optional, but I’m a harissa junkie, so I use it whenever I can. We recently discovered pilpel harissa in our local supermarket and it’s fantastic. Super spicy and intense.
The bonus with this köfte recipe is that you’ll end up with enough mixture to serve up a fantastic spiced lamb meatball and lentil tagine later. The meatballs freeze beautifully, so you can whip them out for a quick mid-week meal.
PS. The origin of the word köfte is the Persian word کوفته  (kufteh) meaning ‘mashed’. Just thought you’d like to know.

Lamb koftes with tahini sauce[Recipe 1] Lamb, pumpkin and lemon köftes

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 red (purple/Spanish) onions, very finely chopped
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 kilo (2 lb) minced (ground) lamb
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon rind
200g (7 oz) butternut pumpkin (butternut squash), grated and chopped
4 large eggs, lightly whisked
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to garnish
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil for frying
Harissa, to serve (optional)

Store-bought pita breads, to serve (or try Sawsan’s fab recipe)
Tahini sauce, to serve
5-minute lentil and tomato salad, to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 3 minutes. Add the ground spices and cook for 1–2 minutes until aromatic. Allow to cool slightly.
Add cooled spiced onion to the minced lamb in a large bowl; along with the lemon rind, pumpkin, eggs, parsley and breadcrumbs. Moosh thoroughly with your hands.
♦ Reserve half the spiced lamb and pumpkin mixture (850g/1¾ lb or 3 tightly-packed cups) for the Spiced lamb meatball and lentil tagine.
Prepare your köftes. Divide the mixture into 14 portions and shape each into a football-shaped log. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a low heat. Add the köftes and cook, turning occasionally, for 8 minutes or until cooked through. Köftes can also be cooked, over a low heat, on the BBQ.
Place koftes on a large platter and serve with harissa (if using), pita breads, tahini sauce, and 5-minute lentil and tomato salad.

  • It’s very important that your onion and pumpkin are chopped as finely as possible, or your köftes and meatballs will be crumbly.
  • You can of course use the köfte mixture to make a double quantity of köftes, or double quantity of meatballs, as preferred.
  • Harissa is a North African hot chilli sauce, available at specialty food stores, Middle Eastern grocers and select supermarkets.
  • Uncooked lamb and pumpkin köftes and meatballs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen with baking paper between the layers, for up to 3 months.

Lamb meatball tagine with couscous

[Recipe 2] Spiced lamb meatball and lentil tagine

Ingredients (serves 4):
♦ 850g/1¾ lb (3 tightly-packed cups) reserved spiced lamb and pumpkin mixture

1 tablespoon olive oil for frying
2 teaspoons tomato paste/concentrate
700ml (24 fl oz) tomato passata (tomato puree)
400g (14 oz) can lentils, drained and rinsed (or 1 cup cooked lentils – see notes below recipe)
1 cinnamon stick
⅛ teaspoon ground chilli powder (or more – to taste)
Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
Half a preserved lemon (skin only), rinsed and finely chopped (optional)
Greek-style natural yogurt, to serve
1¼ cups instant couscous

♦ Roll the reserved spiced lamb and pumpkin mixture into approximately 26 small meatballs (use 1 tablespoon of mixture for each ball).
Refrigerate for half an hour if time permits. 
Heat oil in a large non-stick saucepan over medium heat, and fry meatballs in two batches, until browned all over, about 3 minutes. Remove meatballs, and place on kitchen paper.
Place ½ cup water, tomato paste, passata, lentils, cinnamon and chilli into a large heavy-based saucepan and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 15 minutes, or until thickened. Stir occasionally. Add meatballs to the sauce and simmer for ten minutes, covered, until cooked through. Remove and discard cinnamon stick. 
Season to taste.
Meanwhile, prepare couscous. Bring 2 cups of water to the boil. Stir in the couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes, until water is absorbed. Fluff up with a fork.
Serve meatball tagine over couscous, scattered with parsley and preserved lemon (if using), with a good blob of yogurt on the side.

  • Left-over tomato paste can be frozen in teaspoon or tablespoon lumps, individually-wrapped in cling film; ready to plop into your next pasta dish.
  • Freeze leftover parsley stalks, and use in sweet tomato pasta sauce or home-made chicken stock.
  • 400g (14 oz) can lentils, drained, will yield 1 heaped cup cooked lentils. For 1 heaped cup cooked lentils, cook ½ cup dry lentils in boiling water for 45 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse. I often cook up a load of lentils, and freeze them in 1 cup portions to use when required.