Middle Eastern meatballs

In Lois Daish’s 1993 book, Dinner At Home, one of the chapters is called ‘I Wish There Was Another Name For Mince’. I know just what she means. (There’s also a chapter called ‘Rice, Not Glue’, but we’ll save an exploration of that topic for another time.) Mince couldn’t sound less appetising if it tried. It needs a fancy marketing campaign dreamed up by a room full of consultants on six-figure salaries to change its public image from drab to fab. Alternatively, it just needs more recipes like this one, which I dreamed up to convince the anti-mince brigade in my house.

Middle Eastern meatballs
These are inspired by my absolute all-time favourite meatloaf recipe – a recipe I love so much I wrote it down in a proper notebook. I love all of Paula’s blog, but that meatloaf is a true gem. These meatballs are a good way to a) coax the non-meatloaf-loving eaters at your table to eat mince and b) stretch a little meat into a feast for four.

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp tomato ketchup (or chutney)
3 Tbsp honey
zest and juice of two lemons
a handful of sultanas
a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
500g good lamb mince
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup cold water
100g stale ciabatta or sourdough, blitzed to crumbs
sesame seeds, optional

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until it is soft and golden. Add the salt, spices, tomato ketchup, sultanas, lemon zest and juice and cook, stirring all the time, for about five minutes, or until it thickens. Remove the pan from the heat and tip the mixture into a large bowl to cool completely. While you’re waiting, line a large roasting dish with baking paper and turn the oven to 200C.
When the onion mixture is cool, add the mince, chopped parsley, beaten egg, breadcrumbs and water to it. Mix gently with your hands – don’t squish it all together, keep it light. Form tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place on the prepared tray. When they’re all shaped, bake the meatballs for about 35-40 minutes, turning them halfway through. If you can be bothered, sprinkle them with sesame seeds about 10 minutes before they’re done.
Serve with hummus, yoghurt mixed with a clove of crushed garlic, some salt, finely diced cucumber and lemon juice, some green leaves and pita breads.

What’s your favourite thing to do with mince?



  1. Anonymous
    June 18, 2013 / 9:39 pm

    Regarding the naming of mince: I like calling it "ground beef"…. that way it sounds like a thing that I might be inclined to actually eat 🙂

    • June 19, 2013 / 8:55 am

      Hmmm, I'm not so keen on the idea of ground beef, sounds a bit too much like dirt to me. But to each their own!

  2. June 18, 2013 / 9:59 pm

    I don't eat red meat but thanks to Nigel Slater, or was it Sophie Dahl…not quite sure…I discovered ground turkey mince. My favourite recipe is for burgers made with lots of caramelised onions and sage. They smell amazing and bring back memories of my granddad on Christmas Eve making sage and onion gravy for with the Christmas Turkey.

    I won't rest now until I've thought of an alternative name…
    …I'll be back…

    • June 19, 2013 / 8:57 am

      Those do sound amazing! Can't wait to hear your alternative name suggestions (because, to be frank, 'turkey mince' doesn't sound too appetising either, does it?!

  3. June 18, 2013 / 10:46 pm

    I don't think ground meat sounds any better, but I love cooking and eating mince. I lived in a flat and there was a sticker in the hallway forever that said "Kids Love Mince". It's true. Grown ups love it too.

    Your recipe sounds yummy and I love the sound of eating meatballs with hummus. We always have meatballs with tomato based sauce.

    I wonder why meatloaf never really took off in NZ?

    • June 19, 2013 / 8:59 am

      Having them with hummus makes them a bit like meaty falafels (well, sort of) – you should try it!

  4. June 19, 2013 / 9:12 am

    Heh, I don't mind the word "mince", and it's such a convenient meat to use. The Middle-Eastern flavours here sound delicious.

  5. June 19, 2013 / 8:55 pm

    Love meatballs and those flavours sound lovely. How about selling mince as an artisan convenience product? There could be a script along the lines of: "Still having to put down your phone in order to use that old-fashioned knife? Why not try our finest lamb pre-cut by expert butchers. Eat with one hand and text with the other. Coming soon – pre-chewed beef"

  6. June 20, 2013 / 6:50 am

    mince really is quite a vile word isn't it… I like a good meatball or a burger… I love your recipe, so packed with flavour and spice… glorious for a bit of eastern promise!

  7. June 20, 2013 / 6:57 pm

    I actually like using mince, there are so many ways you can turn mince into a delicious recipe 🙂 I love making meatballs but never thought of turning them into Middle Eastern inspired dish, this would be great with some cous cous x

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