Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hummus is just about the most perfect union I can think of. The hummus is soft and rich and silky, (the meatballs and tahini sauce are too!) and it’s all so easily scoop-able with a torn piece of pita. It’s late summer dinner perfection.
Are you ready to take a little departure from your regular summer fare? I know I am…but don’t worry, this isn’t a complete turnaround, just a little warming up of our regular supper ritual. I actually felt like turning on the stove today, and the combination of meat and hummus is one of my favorite favorite light meals…just perfect for the waning days of summer.
Meatballs are probably my favorite way to eat meat, and I know steak lovers will think that’s insane, but to each his own :) I love the soft texture of meatballs and I make them in every possible iteration. Meatballs are so easy to customize and can take on many different personalities and adapt to so many varied cuisines. But come to think of it every culture has their own beloved meatball recipes, so often no adaptation required.
These spiced lamb meatballs are based on a classic Lebanese meatball recipe…
- The base is ground lamb, and I like to buy the best I can afford. Most of the time I find ground lamb in plastic packets, but if you have a decent local butcher or a good meat counter at your supermarket you can get it freshly ground. Generally that will be shoulder or leg meat.
- You can mix beef with the lamb, if you like, or use all beef.
- For me the thing that makes these meatballs stand out from others is the spicing. I use cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, clove, nutmeg, cumin, and black pepper in mine. You might also buy a prepared spice mix called baharat if you can find it, but the ingredients vary a bit, and it might also include coriander, turmeric, saffron, or ginger. Sometimes even paprika. You can buy it in gourmet stores, or online here.
- The other unusual feature in these meatballs is that they’re made with lots of fresh herbs, I use mint and parsley in mine. This gives the meat a fresh element that really sets them apart.
- Tip: I mix my meatballs in my Kitchenaid stand mixer! I’ve found it does the best job of gently getting all the ingredients evenly incorporated ~ who knew?
Why you should grow mint in your backyard, on your patio, or on your kitchen counter!
- Mint is super easy to grow as long as it gets enough water, in fact, it grows like a weed, and can be invasive, so I keep mine contained in a pot or pots, even when I plant it in the ground. This way the roots can’t take over the rest of the garden.
- There are lots of types of mint, and when I visit my local nursery I test them out by bruising a leaf between my fingers to get the aroma…if I like it, I try it! A couple of my favorites are orange mint, and chocolate mint :)
- Fresh mint is incredibly vibrant and has the ability to brighten up lots of recipes. It’s especially helpful if you like to cook Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food like I do.
- Mint makes a beautiful garnish for both sweet and savory dishes.
I have about a million (slight exaggeration) hummus recipes on the blog, but they all come down to a base formula, which I’ll include here. From there you can add or subtract and go in all sorts of directions…have you read my 50 Ways to Hack Your Hummus? It’s on the required reading list for hummus lovers.
How to make a basic hummus ~
- Put 2 cloves peeled garlic in a blender or food processor with 1 drained and rinsed can of chickpeas.
- Process until broken down, then add 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste) and the juice of half a lemon. Process until it becomes a smooth paste, adding cold water as needed to loosen it up (you can also use olive oil if you like.) Scrape down the sides of your machine as necessary.
- Taste and add more lemon juice if you like. Season with salt.
What to serve with lamb meatballs and hummus ~
This can be served as a heavy appetizer, but if you like you can make it a complete meal that makes a spectacular and unexpected menu for company.
- You’ll want to serve fresh pita bread or laffa bread, both Middle Eastern flatbreads, with this meal. Traditionally the bread would be used to scoop up the hummus and meatballs.
- You’ll want to add something fresh and green to balance out the richness of this meal. I’d choose Tabbouleh Salad, which is a traditional cracked wheat salad, a Israeli Chopped Salad, (a mixed vegetable salad) or a Shirazi Salad, which is a tomato cucumber salad.
Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hummus
- blender or food processor
- 1 pound ground lamb (you can use 1/2 beef, or all beef)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (or you can use store-bought)
- 1/3 cup finely minced onion
- 1/3 cup finely crumbled feta cheese (you can also use Parmesan)
- 1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup finely minced fresh mint
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1/2 cup tahini
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 clove of garlic minced
- salt to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and well rinsed
- 1/4 cup tahini sauce
- juice of 1 lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil
- pomegranate seeds or toasted pine nuts
- fresh mint leaves
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Put all the meatball ingredients into a large bowl. Make sure your egg is pre-beaten. With as little manipulation as possible, combine all the ingredients thoroughly together. The less you work the mixture the more tender your meatballs will be. I actually like to do this in my stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. It gets everything evenly incorporated better and quicker than I can do with my hands.
- Form the mixture into balls, I use a small 1 and 3/4 inch scoop to make mine an even size. At this point you can refrigerate the meatballs, covered, on a plate, or cook them right away.
- To cook the meatballs lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil and arrange the meatballs on the pan. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and measures 160F on an instant read thermometer.
- While the meatballs are cooking make the sauce and hummus. Mix the yogurt with the tahini, lemon, and garlic until creamy. Add salt to taste. Thin with water to a thick drizzle consistency.
- To make the hummus, put the chickpeas and garlic in a blender or food processor and pulse until the beans are broken down. Add the tahini, along with the juice of 1/2 the lemon, and run the machine, scraping down the sides as necessary, until the hummus is smooth and silky. Add a little bit of cold water to thin it down if needed. Taste and add more lemon if you like, and season with salt and pepper.
- Spoon the hummus out onto a shallow bowl or platter, and use the back of the spoon to make a spiral pattern on the top. This helps to hold the olive oil. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and top with the warm meatballs. Garnish with mint and pomegranate seeds. Serve the sauce and fresh pita bread on the side.
- Makes approximately 20 meatballs, serves 4