You should know dear reader, that recently I’ve not had as had as much time as I would have liked in the kitchen. This should of course be met with exorbitant levels of sympathy. I can imagine the tears and hysteria now as you cry “poor fodderblogger – he must be so overworked” as you desperately search for my employers details to reprimand them for working me so hard. Not happening? Oh ok – fine, it’s probably for the best… Anyway. Not having a lot of time, I’ve found myself in a bit of food rut. I’ve been finding myself starving hungry and with little time to cook so I’ve been throwing things together pretty quickly. This has meant I’ve been relying upon my tried (or should that be tired?) and tested meals, the quick and easy staples upon which I can rely for a solid meal, but without the va-va-voom.
Time wasn’t about to present itself to me, so I was going to have to evolve like a Darwinian finch, and that’s exactly what this recipe is all about. It’s a game changer. You can throw it together easily straight after work, and it doesn’t involve loads of waiting for things to cook. It’s one of those rare meals that when one part is done, it’s time to do the next and you won’t have to juggle five things at once. Minimal stress is required, it’s comforting like a big hug from a buxom madam, and most importantly it’s delicious. Put simply, it’s the perfect mid-week meal.
Now I’m not going to go all Jamie Oliver on you and claim you can make this in 15 minutes flat without setting the house on fire or losing a limb, but if you’re cooking tonight you could do much worse than this as a quick and easy meal. The zingy meatballs are guaranteed to hit the spot, and the sweet, smoky aubergine accompaniment, along with the rich crunch of the toasted walnuts means this dish doesn’t compromise on flavour and won’t tie you to the oven all evening.
500g lamb mince
Zest of half a large lemon
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
10 large mint leaves (small handful), finely shredded
100ml vegetable stock
2 good sized aubergines
Juice of half to two-thirds of a lemon (adjusted to taste)
2 Tablespoons of tahini
2 Tablespoon of pomegranate molasses.
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Loaded teaspoon of cumin seeds
Handful of walnuts, toasted
1. Combine the lamb mince, lemon zest, garlic and mint leaves in a big bowl, mix thoroughly and season generously. Once well mixed, roll the mixture into small, ping-pong sized balls in your palms (it should make about 16) and brown these in a little oil in a pan.
2. Once nicely browned all over, place the meatballs in a small over proof dish with a lid, and add around the vegetable stock. Ideally most of the meatballs will be sat in the stock but don’t worry too much. Put the meatballs in an oven preheated to 190°C with the lid on and cook for 25 minutes.
3. While these are cooking, make the burnt aubergine. Take the aubergine and place it directly on a moderate flame. Keep turning it regularly until the flesh feels soft and the skin is all blackened. This should take 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them as you’re doing this – you don’t want them to catch alight although it would certainly would add some excitement to meal time, helping you break out of that cooking rut…
4. Once done, chop lengthways through the aubergine and once it’s cooled a little, scoop the flesh out and put it in a sieve to drain for 15 minutes. Add a little salt as this helps draw out the liquid.
5. Meanwhile in a bowl, combine the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, tahini, and garlic and toasted cumin seeds. Once the aubergine has had it’s time, add it in and mix thoroughly. Taste and season as required.
Serve the meatballs and aubergine with couscous and scatter toasted walnut pieces over the top. Garnish with chopped herbs – I used a tiny bit of left over coriander but parsley would work too – or with pomegranate seeds for an opulent finish.