We’re still in comfort food season in the UK. There may be sunshine during the day but the nights are cooler and a hearty dish is just the ticket. Meat doesn’t happen every day at The Birdhouse so when it does it is given careful consideration from beginning to end. An unexpected sunny evening has led us to cook outside. Everything is better outside, isnt it?
Meatballs are a family fave. Any style is good but, household heritage dictates that it is curried meatballs today. Lamb takes spices well and has the fat to avoid drying out too much. Let’s go make meatballs!
You should be prepared for the vast quantity of ingredients we have used here. This is Pakistani Asian cooking. Every Pakistani household would have all of these ingredients to hand. If you don’t then perhaps buy a jar of sauce. Unapologetic.
The dish is our own Birdhouse recipe. Not necessarily unique but no recipe books were opened or packet mixes used. All ingredients were carefully chosen, as basic as possible and blended by us for our own tastes. No hacks here. All quantities can be adjusted to suit your good selves. We are just a guide.
We have a wonderful local butcher: Kevin. He will supply all sorts of meaty goodies at the drop of a hat. He has minced a kilo of lamb shoulder for us. This will easily feed our family of six and maybe we’ll use any leftover sauce to turn into a ‘slightly’ more veggie meal next week (add a can of chickpeas, fry off some paneer, slice in tofu, a bag of spinach…your choice).
Here we go:
For the meatballs:
- 1kg lamb mince
- 2 green finger chillies, finely chopped (check they’re good and hot)
- 10 cardamom pods (yes, really ten)
- 3 allspice berries
- 3 cloves
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- a small handful of coriander seeds
- a tablespoon of black peppercorns
- half a cup of fried onions. These can be fried by hand or, bought pre-fried.
- teaspoon of salt
The meatballs are flavoured with highly aromatic spices. This is not a dish for the fainthearted.
Grind up the spices with the salt, add to the mince, along with the garlic, green chilli and the fried onions. Smoosh the mince together and shape into walnut sized meatballs. Fry until golden brown.
It’s always worth doing a little taste test by frying a mini patty. This will give you a chance to taste the seasoning and heat levels before frying the whole batch of meatballs. And gives you an excuse to eat the meatballs before anyone else!
For the Sauce:
- Whole spices: 3 bay leaves, 2 black cardamom pods, 4 green cardamom pods, 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 onions, sliced
- 2 red chillies, mild. Our’s come from Watt’s Farm, via Ocado. Seeds and all.
- Tomato paste
- Ginger root
- Fresh turmeric
- 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
- 2 tablespoons corainder seeds
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 3 allspice berries
- 3 tablespoons garam masala
- Chilli flakes/powder to taste. We used our Birdhouse blend from 2019.
- 2 cans coconut milk
- 4 hardboiled eggs (honestly, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it)
Grind the seed spices: fenugreek, coranider, appsice and black pepper. Add the garam masala. Blend the ginger, garlic, tomato paste and turmeric with water until it is a smooth paste. Fry the onions in a little sunflower oil. Add the whole spices and then the spice grind. Fry off until the aromatic oils are released. Add the ginger/garlic/tomato blend. Add now the coconut milk. Cook until it had reduced to about half.
Or just plop everything in a pan until it is a brown, thick amalgam.
Still with us? Here we go for another round. We promise you’ll have a scrummy dinner at the end of this epic journey.
For the final dish:
- Add the meatballs to the sauce
- Add hard boiled eggs if you like that sort of thing.
- Bubble away until it is all thick and unctuous. We’re cooking on a kadai but this stage could happen on the hob or in an oven.
And now the dish is ready. Meatballs are served with homemade bread, chopped salad and plain yoghurt.
Is it worth it? Totally. Cooking is a tonic for the soul. Feed yourselves and your family well and all is well.