My kids are always begging me to make meatballs for dinner but I’m usually reluctant to oblige. They always seemed so finicky to me. All that rolling and then frying…just the thought of it made me tired. That being said I also refuse to buy already made meatballs as they always seem to be of the worst quality-too bland and too fatty.
Sometimes all you need is a little bit of inspiration and for that reason I have a myriad of cookbooks! I was really lacking some imagination so I grabbed “Please to the Table” by Anya Von Bremzen and John C. Welchman; a book that gives a brilliant overview of the food eaten in the former Soviet Union. The recipe for Spicy Meatballs in Pomegranate Sauce came from the Central Asian region of the former USSR and I had it bookmarked for ages.
The recipe I am sharing with you is adapted by me according to my taste but inspired by Anya von Bremzen. I used the combination of both extra lean beef and pork instead of lamb, and added sumac, cayenne pepper and fresh cilantro to the meat mixture to make it spicier. I substituted oats for bread crumbs. I also completely changed the pomegranate sauce recipe. What made it absolutely outstanding for me is pomegranate molasses-a thick, fragrant and gloriously tangy reduction of pomegranate juice-an ingredient I learned about from Yotam Ottolenghi. It’s readily available in supermarkets all over the UK. If you can’t find pomegranate molasses you can substitute it with a combination pomegranate juice and balsamic vinegar reduced to a thick consistency.
If you like sweet and sour sauces you will fall in love with this pomegranate sauce that the meatballs are glazed in. The taste is both nostalgically familiar and excitingly new-it reminds us of sweet and sour dishes we grew up eating but at the same time pomegranate updates this sauce with a much more complex and sophisticated flavour we knew nothing about back in the 80s.
Another reason to love this recipe is it’s QUICK! I know, friends, I just told you that I always thought that meatball making is a long and tedious business but when I finished I realised that the whole process took me 1 hour from start to finish. I served these meatballs piled on top of fluffy couscous, and you don’t need me to tell you that couscous takes no time at all to prepare!
- 1 lbs extra lean ground beef
- 1 lbs extra lean ground pork
- 1 onion, processed in a food processor with 2 tbsp of water or grated
- 1 egg, large
- ⅓ cup oats
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp sumac (optional)
- 2 tsp dried mint
- 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
- 2 tbsp oil for frying
- 1 cup/250 ml Pomegranate molasses
- 2 cups/500 ml beef or chicken stock
- 2-3 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch + 2 tbsp water
- ½ tsp chilli flakes
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp sumac
- pomegranate seeds from ½ pomegranate
- 1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
- Process the onion with 2 tbsp of water in a food processor to a paste or grate it on a grater.
- In a large bowl combine both meats, onion, egg, spices and chopped fresh cilantro, oats, salt and pepper.
- Form meatballs approximately the size of golf balls. Use a small ice cream scoop to get even sized meatballs.
- Arrange them on a cutting board and put them in the freezer for 10-15 min to firm up.
- Brown meatballs in batches over medium high heat on all sides in hot oil, they don't need to be cooked all the way through. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.
- Discard the oil meatballs were browned in and wipe the pan with a paper towel.
- To the same pan add pomegranate molasses, beef or chicken stock, brown sugar and spices.
- Bring to a boil and simmer until it starts to get thicker, add a mixture of corn starch and water and stir with a whisk to make sure there are not lumps.
- Add half of the pomegranate seeds to the sauce together with meatballs.
- Simmer for 15-20 minutes shaking the pan once in a while to prevent meatballs sticking until the sauce is thick and syrupy. If your sauce is still thin after the time stated continue simmering until it has the consistency of glaze.
- Serve sprinkles with the remaining pomegranate seeds and chopped fresh mint leaves.
These meatballs were an absolute hit with the family! You know that moment when dinner conversation ceases and all you hear is the sound of people chewing? Expect that!