I almost didn’t post this recipe, hence the lack of photos, in progress or otherwise! I’ve been making these Sensational Meatballs and Lentils for about 8 years (since 2006 according to my notes) and it was Jake who suggested that I share the recipe here on the blog when I made it the other day. It came about the usual way – picking up a few bits on the way home from work and seeing what was in the cupboards to supplement the ingredients – a bit like Ready Steady Cook! The resultant deeply flavoured, lemony Meatballs and Lentils were so delicious that I wrote up the recipe in my notebook.
This is one of those dishes that wraps you up in a warm blanket and gives you a hug; so comforting on these dark, chilly evenings. The seasonings of smoked paprika, rosemary and cumin seeds give the dish so much depth and flavour and the lemon juice and zest perk it all up. It’s very quick to prepare, especially if you buy pre-made (raw) meatballs which can be a godsend if you are strapped for time. Red lentils don’t require pre-soaking and cook very quickly, usually between 15 – 20 minutes and the lemon juice is the perfect complement to them. Stirring in spinach or chard leaves at the end gives it a vegetal boost with the added bonus of not having to prepare a separate side dish. You could also use frozen spinach. adding it a few minutes earlier so that it has a chance to thaw in the pot. Don’t add salt until the end otherwise the lentils stay hard. This is quick, one pot cooking at it’s best.
You start by rolling the meatballs, then sauté the onions, then the meatballs with the seasonings; stir in the stock, lentils, lemon juice and tomatoes and let the whole lot simmer away while you get the rice on and prepare the spinach which gets stirred in a couple of minutes before the end. That’s it!! I urge you to give the Meatballs and Lentils a try – the dish is absolutely sensational!
I’m taking these to share with all the Fiesta Friday #46 revellers, so generously hosted by Angie at the Novice Gardener. Today our co hosts are Margy @La Petite Casserole and Juju @cookingwithauntjuju. – do drop by and say hello to them!
Sensational Meatballs with Lentils
- 500 g lean mince beef
- 1 tsp of salt and a good grinding of the pepper mill
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
- 2 red onions, diced
- A good splash of Olive oil
- 1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
- 1 tsp whole, dry roasted cumin seeds
- 1 rounded tsp smoked paprika
- 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 200g dry red split lentils
- 1 rounded tsp of chicken stock powder stirred into 500 ml of hot water/500ml homemade stock
- 1 tin of tomatoes or 3-4 medium tomatoes, quartered
- 1 couple of bay leaves
- 300 – 400 g fresh spinach or chard
- Cooked rice
- Dollop of greek yoghurt or tzatziki
- Season the minced beef with salt and pepper, stir in parsley and with a light hand, mix well to combine. Wet your hands and roll into walnut sized balls and set aside. If you are in a hurry you can substitute ready made (raw) meatballs but get the premium ones as the cheaper ones have more fat and sometimes, gristle.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onions until soft and a little coloured.
- Stir in the rosemary, smoked paprika, garlic and lemon zest, then add the meatballs and sauté until lightly brown on all sides – about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the lemon juice, the lentils, the stock, the tomatoes (break up the tomatoes if you are using whole tinned ones) and bay leaves. Let this simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it and add a little more water if necessary. It shouldn’t be too thick.
- While it’s simmering away, wash the spinach/chard and remove the central rib if thick and fibrous. Save them in the freezer, for the stock pot. Chop the leaves and set aside. Get the rice on.
- After 20 minutes, check that the lentils are cooked through and also check the seasoning. Adjust to taste – this is the time to add salt; I also like to add more cumin seeds.
- Stir in the spinach/chard leaves and cover the pot to allow the leaves to wilt in the heat.
- Serve hot with rice an a dollop of greek yoghurt or tzatziki.