These Spiced Lamb Meatballs are easy, delicious and loaded with flavour. Serve them alongside a fresh Chopped Salad and some creamy labneh for a light lunch, or a serving of steamed rice for a more filling dinner. To keep things Paleo and Whole30, simply omit the labneh and enjoy with the salad and your favourite grilled vegetables.
What You Need for the Spiced Lamb Meatballs
- Ground Lamb: I love this recipe with ground lamb. It has a delicious flavour, high fat content and takes on the flavours of the spices very well. If you are not a fan of lamb, you can also substitute lean ground beef, ground pork, ground veal or any combination of the four. The important thing is to use a ground meat that isn’t too lean so that the meatballs stay juicy as they cook.
- Spices: For the absolute best flavour, toast some whole coriander and cumin seeds before freshly grinding them in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder along with the smoked paprika, Aleppo pepper, salt and black pepper. It makes a world of difference and will add an incredible aroma to the meatballs.
If you can’t find whole coriander and cumin seeds, you can use pre-ground varieties. If you can’t find Aleppo pepper, you can substitute crushed red chile flakes, cayenne pepper or your favourite ground chile powder. Each type of chile powder will impart a different flavour, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
- Onion: To add flavour and keep the meatballs moist as they cook, I add some finely chopped white onion to the mixture.
- Baking Soda: Another secret ingredient to fluffy and tender meatballs is to add a small amount of baking soda. But in order for the baking soda to work its magic you have to let the lamb marinate for at least a few hours.
- Parsley: For a tiny pop of colour and flavour, add some finely chopped fresh parsley to the spiced meatballs mixture. You can substitute cilantro for a different flavour profile or use a combination of the two.
- Sumac: I like to garnish the meatballs with a pinch of sumac just before serving. It adds a beautiful colour and imparts a tangy, slightly sour and acidic flavour that balances the richness of the lamb.
- Labneh: It’s not Paleo or Whole30, but if you’re living your Food Freedom, try serving these spiced lamb meatballs over a bed of labneh.
This double-strained yogurt is creamy, smooth, spreadable, and helps balance the spices in the meatballs. If you can’t find labneh sold in stores, you can make it on your own by straining some Greek yogurt in a cheese cloth until almost all of the excess moisture has been removed.
What You Need for the Chopped Salad
- Tomatoes: Feel free to use any variety of tomato you like here. I recommend something with a firm flesh and fewer seeds so that the salad keeps a nice texture and doesn’t turn too watery. I used cherry tomatoes this time because that’s what I had, but I normally like to make this salad with Roma tomatoes.
- Cucumbers: Here again you can use any variety you like. I recommend Persian or English cucumber varieties because they have a thin, edible skin that isn’t too bitter. This means you don’t have to spend time peeling the cucumbers or wasting the skin.
- Onion: You can use red, yellow or white onion in this salad. Each will add a different colour and flavour. If your onion is very bitter and harsh, you can chop it and rinse it under some cold water to mellow out the flavour a bit.
- Parsley: Adding some finely chopped parsley to the salad will give it some colour, flavour and aroma. You can also experiment with some cilantro, dill or mint.
- Sumac: Adding some sumac to the chopped salad is a great way to impart some lemony, sour and acidic flavour without actually adding any additional liquid. It will completely change the colour and flavour of the salad and pairs very well with the spiced lamb meatballs.
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: This salad requires nothing more than a healthy drizzle of some good quality extra-virgin olive oil. Now’s a great time to crack open some of that stuff you may have gotten as a gift and were waiting to use.
- Flakey Sea Salt: If you add too much salt it will pull moisture out of the tomatoes and cucumbers, resulting in a watery pool at the bottom of the salad bowl. Instead, use a small amount of flakey sea salt that will help bring out the flavours in the vegetables without pulling out too much moisture.
Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Chopped Salad and Labneh
For the Spiced Lamb Meatballs:
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper substitute ½ teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
- ¼ teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
- 1 pound ground lamb substitute lean ground beef
- ½ medium white onion finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley plus extra for garnish
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter substitute ghee
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 10 ounces labneh
- ½ teaspoon sumac
For the Chopped Salad:
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes sliced in half
- 2 Persian cucumbers diced
- ½ white onion diced
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sumac
- ¼ teaspoon flakey sea salt plus more to taste
For the Spiced Lamb Meatballs:
- Add the coriander seeds and cumin seeds to a dry, cold skillet and place over medium-low heat. Gently toast the spices, stirring often, until fragrant and golden. Transfer the spices to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder along with the paprika, salt, Aleppo pepper and black pepper and grind to a fine powder.
- In a bowl, combine the lamb, spice mixture, onion, parsley and baking soda. Mix to combine and shape into 1-tablespoon sized meatballs. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours to overnight.
- Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter and heat until the butter has melted. Add the meatballs and cook, undisturbed, until the bottoms are golden brown, around 4 minutes. Flip and cook the other sides until golden brown all over and the thickest part of the meatballs register at least 145F internally, around 4 more minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a serving platter and set aside.
- Return the pan over medium-low heat and deglaze with the lemon juice. Scrape off any brown bits on the bottom of the pan and pour the pan drippings overtop of the meatballs. Garnish the meatballs with a pinch of sumac and some chopped parsley and serve with the labneh and chopped salad.
For the Chopped Salad:
- In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, parsley, olive oil, sumac, and salt. Toss everything to incorporate, taste for seasoning and adjust with salt as desired.