Lamb & Mint Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Mint comes in many shapes and sizes. On my kitchen balcony grows a chocolate mint and an unspectacular variety which was given to me as a cutting and tastes great in teas and cooked dishes.  Mint is well loved by many warmer cultures for its ability to promote sweating and thus cool the body in hot weather.  It eases many digestive disorders such as flatulence, colic and nausea.  Mint can reduce teething pain in children, is disliked by rats and the British know that it makes a great accompaniment to lamb dishes, when served as mint sauce or jelly.

This recipe combines mint and lamb directly.  It is inspired by the French Elle a table magazine (number 69, spring 2010). It is cheap to make, easy to make and tastes great.

A note about pine nuts…
Increase or decrease the quantity of pine nuts to suit your taste and wallet.  I implore you not to buy cheap pine nuts, especially those from China. I buy the best quality Italian pine nuts that I can find from a trusted source. For some reason many cheaper (organic and non organic) pine nuts can cause adverse reactions and at best can remove your sense of taste for a week or so. If you can’t find good pine nuts then you could use more almond butter.  Almond butter is available from many health food shops.  If you can’t find that, use ground almonds!

You can also add a little chili, curry or cayenne pepper during cooking, to make this dish spicier, if desired.  This is a child friendly version.

Ingredients:

500g quality minced lamb
1 large onion
Small – good handful best quality pine nuts
Tablespoon of ground almond butter
Good handful of fresh mint
400g can of chopped tomatoes
Tablespoon tomato puree
1 vegetable stock cube or teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter
Olive oil

Directions:

  1. Peel the onion.
  2. Wash the mint and remove any woody parts.
  3. Finely chop the onion.
  4. Reserve about 10 mint leaves before finely chopping the rest and adding it to the onion.
  5. If serving to children, very finely chop or grind the pine nuts.  Combine with the onion and mint.
  6. Combine the almond butter with the onion and mint.
  7. Add the minced lamb, mix well to thoroughly combine the flavours.
    (steps 3-7 are very simply achieved with a food processor)
  8. Hand shape the meatball mixture into fairly small balls.  I use about a heaped desert spoonfull for each ball.
  9. Gently brown the meatballs on all sides in some melted butter combined with olive oil.
  10. Transfer the juices and browned meatballs to a casserole pan.
  11. Add the can of chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, remaining mint leaves, stock cube or powder and a little salt and pepper to taste.  If serving to adults perhaps add a few more whole pine nuts to the sauce.
  12. Heat gently to begin with and stir very carefully to combine the sauce ingredients without breaking up the meatballs.
  13. Bring to a gentle boil and then simmer on a low heat for about 40 minutes.
  14. Serve with white beans (cannellini) and perhaps white rice.