For the meatballs
600 g (about a pound and a half) ground lamb (lamb mince)
1 large egg 35 g (about an ounce and a half)
A piece of white or wheat bread, crusts removed
1/2 large or one small sweet white onion
A handful of mint leaves, chopped
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
25 g (about an ounce) sultanas (golden raisins), chopped (optional)
For the sauce
½ large or one small sweet white onion, grated to a fine pulp with a box grater
50 g (about 2 ounces) ground almonds
250-300 ml white chicken stock
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons honey
A generous pinch of saffron
Salt and pepper
For the garnish
1-2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
Toasted slivered almonds (optional)
If you have a food processor, whiz together the onion, mint, ground almonds, and bread until blended. Add the egg, meat, seasonings, and sultanas (if using) and pulse a few times until combined, but not so much that your meat becomes paste. Perhaps, however, you’ve misplaced the blade attachment to your food processor in a recent move. In that case, prepare by grating the onion against a box grater and finely mincing the mint and the bread on a board. Combine these with the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix together well with your hands.
Form into firm balls about two inches in diameter by rolling between your palms. You can freeze whatever you’re not using right away. (Remember, when you want to cook them, don’t defrost, but rather brown directly in the pan before heating them through or you will wind up with soggy formless mush.) To cook, glug some olive oil into a pan and arrange the meatballs in a single layer. Gently brown them by shaking the pan occasionally, about 7-10 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a paper towel lined plate.
To make the sauce, pour off most of the fat from the pan, and sauté the grated onions over medium heat until they become transparent. Stir in the ground almonds and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until they become pale golden. Stir in the cumin and paprika and sauté for a few moments more, and then add the stock. Crumble in the saffron with your fingers and reduce heat to a simmer. Use a wooden spoon to break up any lumps and simmer for about 10 minutes more, to allow the saffron to bloom and the mixture to reduce slightly. Stir in the honey, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Return the meatballs to the pan and toss gently, so they’re coated with sauce. Simmer uncovered for another 10-15 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through, adding more liquid to the sauce if necessary. Serve hot, garnished with fresh mint and toasted slivered almonds (optional).
This recipe makes about six dozen two-inch meatballs, enough for 6-8 main dish servings.