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Before I start – a few words to say that this post celebrates the publication of Giving, the student cookbook I was asked to contribute to. It’s been put together with a whole lotta love and even more hard work by Students for Women of Leeds University, and can be purchased here. What follows is a sneak preview; this is just the recipe I submitted but I cannot urge you enough to get the full copy. Not only is it raising life-changing funds but it’s packed full of some wonderful recipes. Bake-Off Ruby’s even got involved! If that doesn’t sell it, I don’t know what will.

The best things often come together. Brunch for example. Brangelina. Marmite and cheese. Labradoodles. Keenan and Kel. I could go on for days.

That said, there are a lot of things that together spell double trouble, and not in a cute and freckly Lindsay Lohan kind of way. In a mutant Frankenstein kind of way. Like jeggings or Ant and Dec or femidoms or manginas*.

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The scientific observations above I think prove the following rule; which is (ahem): when you put two things together that independently are great, the consequences are usually either undeniably spectacular (e.g. booty (good) + delicious (good) = bootylicious. V V GOOD!) or really, really terrible (e.g. men (good) + boobs (good) = moobs. TERRIBLE!).

Now, I don’t know anyone who really loves moobs, just like a I don’t know anyone who can keep their eyes off Beyonce’s fatty (her words not mine, sisterhood). And so, I thus deduce that it’s actually rather rare to find people sitting on the fence with these things.

Or so I thought. Enter the fruit and meat question. Mango chutney? Yes! Apple sauce? Of course! Duck a l’orange? Bien sur! (ENOUGH Grace.) I for one am in favour. And yet having asked around, I’ve learnt that actually it’s neither normal nor ok to eat raspberry jam with Sunday lunch when you’re out of redcurrant (classic dad move). I grew up thinking this was completely fine. I’ve since realised that it’s not, but I am still partial to a fruity little number. I even have a perverse love for raisins in coronation chicken (they don’t call me sophisticat for nothin’). But while most people can stomach Pret’s turkey-cranberry, the very same will balk at the idea of a chicken and apricot tagine. It just doesn’t fit the rule.

And so this recipe’s success depends on how you feel about this combination of rich, salty meat being both complemented and contradicted by sweet and sticky fruit. In this case, it’s lamb and prune, and I’m not bragging (JKZ! I obviously am), these kefta (or meatballs) converted even the most stubborn of my pals on this front. As ever – skimp on the extras if you’re feeling poor, but try not to on this one. They really make it. Also please excuse bad pictures. Woops.

*I take it back. Mangina’s are freakin’ hilarious! More!!! I might even find Ant and Dec funny if they did manginas on BGT!

Jewelled Kefta salad with golden dressing

Serves about 6

 For the meatballs:

  • 500g minced lamb
  • 1 smallish onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 80g prunes, chopped (about 12-13 prunes, if not using scales)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil, for frying

 For the salad:

  • 4 -6 large handfuls of mixed leaves
  • Olive oil and a squeeze of lemon
  • The seeds from half a pomegranate (optional)
  • A large handful of pumpkin seeds (optional)

For the dressing:

Juice of half a lemon

  • A dash of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 250g plain yogurt (low-fat is fine)
  • 1 clove of garlic, very finely chopped
  • 10 mint leaves, finely sliced (scissors is fine)
  • 1 tsp turmeric (optional)

Put the lamb mince into a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients for the kefta, except the olive oil. I must emphasise the importance of seasoning here. Meatballs ain’t meatballs without lots of S&P…Wash your hands thoroughly, and begin to work the mince with your hands until everything is well combined. Don’t be squeamish you wetters – it’s the only way. Wash your hands again, and put the uncooked meatballs on a sheet of baking paper on a tray.

Wet your hands (sounding like a stuck record!) and half-dry them. You want them damp in order that the meat doesn’t stick to your hands. Get stuck in to the lamb again, rolling the meat into balls a bit smaller than a golf ball between your palms. If the meat begins to stick, (guess what) wash your hands again. I sound like your mum. Sorry.

Cover the prepared meatballs with cling film or foil, and pop them in the fridge for 20 minutes (this is important as it helps them bind. 10 minutes, at a push, would be fine however). During this time you can get on with the salad and the dressing.

In a large salad bowl, toss your leaves with a squeeze of lemon and a tiny drizzle of oil. In a small bowl or serving dish, mix the juice of half a lemon and a splash of olive oil with salt, pepper, and the yogurt. Once combined, stir in the chopped mint and garlic, and finally the turmeric (if using). Taste to check for seasoning and adjust if necessary. It should be fairly runny in consistency. If it looks too thick, loosen it up with some more olive oil.

Once the kefta have chilled, pop the kefta in the pan with no more than a tsp of olive oil and sear, turning them gently, for about five minutes or until the meat is browned all over and nice crispy patches are beginning to blister on the skin. When this starts to happen, turn the heat down immediately to a low-ish heat, so the meat can cook through without fear of burning. Keep turning the kefta but be sure to be gentle as otherwise they’ll fall apart. It should take about 8-10 minutes. If you’re unsure, chop one in half to check. You want to take them out of the pan when the pinkness is just turning to brown – cooked but full of oozing juices.

Remove the kefta from the pan and cover them in foil to retain some of their heat – you want to serve them warm but not hot. Finally, assemble the finishing touches to the salad. If possible, make a well in the middle of the leaves in which to place the bowl of dressing (but don’t worry too much if this isn’t possible). Dot the meatballs around the salad and lightly drizzle them with a few teaspoons of the dressing. Scatter the pumpkin and pomegranate seeds on top, keeping a tiny handful of each to sprinkle on top of the remaining dressing, with a few whole mint leaves to garnish. Serve immediately with the couscous.

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