Wild rose el hanout lamb meatballs with aromatic tomato sauce

 In Autumn, Ingredients, Mutton/Lamb, Spring, Summer

As you may know I’ve been finding out lots about spicing recently from lots of people to really find a new way to bring the wonderful fresh produce available at my local farmers market to life. I’ve also become really fascinated with all the foragers I’m ‘meeting’. Foraging is something that I’d really love to be able to do and a major goal for 2012 is to get some practical experience of it so I can go beyond bramble and wild raspberry hunting. Wild garlic, seaweed, native fungi, dandelion, nettles, mussels, rowan and hawthorn berries are all names that conjure up exotic thoughts in my head and have me craving a better understanding of the free larder that grows and lives around us. Probably even in my garden.

One person who does know about these things is Liz Knight who is responsible for Forage and I decided that next best to collecting myself was to buy some of Liz’s little pots of joy. One of my favourite ‘spices’ is ras el hanout (top of the shop in Arabic), the individualist fragrant mixture which gives a different flavour in every mouthful when you cook with it, sometimes sweet, spicy, hot, fragrant. So when I saw ‘Wild rose el hanout’ from forage I knew I had to try. The aroma of wild rose, lavender, cumin and cloves among others is heady and I used it as a rub on my lamb mince from Carmichael’s to mix the Scottish countryside, English countryside and a little bit of North Africa in my meatballs.

For the tomato sauce I took the delicate flavours of cumin, turmeric, lemon and coriander to give a delicate but earthy aromatic complement to the rich meat and spice patties. The result was a wonderful complex mix of flavours that I think worked really well. You could use any ras el hanout if you can’t get it from Forage but if you can get it then do as it is English country garden meets medina.

This will serve 2 people

250g lamb mince
1.5 tsp wild rose el hanout
1 onion finely chopped
1 tin plum tomatoes
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 lemon zest and juice
Oilive oil
Handful chopped coriander
Splash sherry vinegar
1 dsp creme fraiche

To make the meatballs mix the mince well with the ras el hanout and leave to let the flavour permeate in one ball. In a pan heat a glug of olive oil and add the onions, cooking to soft golden brown. Add the cumin and fry for 30 seconds and then the turmeric, stir in and add the tomatoes, stirring with a splash of sherry vinegar. Add the zest of the lemon and allow to cook over a low heat until the sauce has thickened and the tomatoes become quite homogenous. This is quite rustic so chunky bits of tomatoes are quite nice to find on your plate, you don’t need to be pretty here.

While the sauce is reducing, heat the oven to 180C. Form the mince into little meatballs a little smaller than ping pong ball size. In a smaller pan brown the meatballs all over and add them to an ovenproof dish that they’ll fit in nicely. Add the lemon juice and coriander to the sauce, stir well and pour over the meatballs making sure they’re well covered. Place in the oven for 20 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through.

Serve with boiled basmati rice, the sauce topped with a teaspoon sized dollop of creme fraiche and a few coriander leaves.

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