In Defense of Lamb - Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatballs
Poor lamb gets such a bad rap and most times I'm afraid it's unjust and the result of it being prepared the wrong way. You see, lamb can be a bit fatty and it's not the good kind of fat. It doesn't melt and make the meat tender and flavorful the same way it does for steak and bacon. Instead, lamb fat is made from lanolin (yep, the same stuff that's in your hand cream) so it can be, well, kinda gross, bearing a waxy taste. Additionally, if not removed properly and before the cooking process starts, the meat itself can be permeated with that off-putting taste. Adding to that, if the lamb gets a little old before slaughter (sorry, there's no polite way to say it), it's meat can get a little gamey, which can be another common turnoff. Not helping the cause, lamb, especially right now, is really expensive and when you factor in the extra work of removing all the fat (or paying to have someone do it for you) who wants to bother?
Allow me to introduce the beauty that is ground lamb.
If you are one of those that read that first paragraph of mine and nodded along in agreement or if you read the title of this post and thought, "Pffft, I don't do lamb", I encourage you to give ground lamb a try. No need to remove any fat or worry about trimming anything up, the work is already done for you and you can get a whole package of it for about $6. If you ask me, that's a small investment in a nice little change up from the same old, same old.
With the help of some spices that really compliment the natural flavors of the lamb, you can really punch up that flavor. Here, I used the Moroccan spice blend, Ras el Hanout, which combines the spicy and earthy flavors of tumeric, nutmeg, cumin, coriander and clove, to name a few. Additionally, I added a heaping tablespoon of pomegranate molasses to help bring out the meats natural sweetness as well as provide a welcoming tangy note. If you don't have Ras el Hanout on hand but still want to give this a try, you could give this dish more of an Indian flair by substituting the popular Indian spice blend, Garam Masala or just a couple hefty pinches of cumin and coriander with a bit of cinnamon would work as well. Of course, you could swap ground beef or chicken for lamb if you really wanted to, but why not give a lamb a try?
Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatballs
- 1 lb ground lamb meat
- olive oil for the pan
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 TBS Ras el Hanout
- 1 TBS pomegranate molasses
- 1 TBS fresh chopped parsley
- 1 TBS fresh chopped mint
- 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
- Salt and Pepper
Heat a skillet on medium heat. Add a drizzle of oil to the pan and then heat the onions with a pinch of salt until they start to get translucent. Add the garlic and continue to heat until the onions soften a bit. Add the Ras el Hanout and continue to toast the onions and garlic for another minute or so before setting aside to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the ground lamb, pomegranate molasses, parsley, mint and cooled onion mixture. Combine thoroughly and then roll into balls and place on parchment lined sheet pan. Bake at 375 until the meat is just cooked through. Serve immediately.
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