Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lamb Meatballs with Nigella Seeds and Smoked Paprika (SCD)



We have some lovely friends called Mark and Jean Rainbow - a gentle pair of Shiatsu practitioners who, just after Christmas, threw everything they had into buying a parcel of hillside near Bridport. At first they thought it was just the land they were buying and hoped - in good time - to raise a flock of sheep there. But the universe had other plans and soon they found that the previous owner of the land wished to gift them his sheep and cows too. He and his wife had bought the place together, worked it and raised the animals - when she passed away he didn't have the heart to continue and saw that Mark and Jean were as delightful parents as any sheep could wish for. Suddenly, overnight they were farmers and their lives became centred around tending those animals and moving with the rhythm of the land.

The time came when the sheep had lambs and we heard all about lambing in the long cold nights and as spring turned into summer Jean casually asked if I would like half a lamb for the freezer. I couldn't believe my luck and said yes on the spot - wiping away a little anticipatory drool as my mind roamed through lamb dishes to come.

When the lamb arrived all neatly packaged into a cardboard box and Jean sat down with a cup of tea she looked a little tearful. Not really ever much of a meat eater herself she felt it was important that they eat some of the lamb they had raised with so much love. But when they took the roasted meat out of the oven and sank their teeth into juicy slices bathed in gravy, she was reminded of the smell of her lambs on a hot spring day and their mothers labouring through the night as she stroked their back. The lamb tasted not just of lamb, but of her lambs, of their coming into the world, of the fields they gambolled and their soft woolly bodies up close. I said that all those memories sounded wonderful - and if she was going to eat meat, what better a way than to care for it in such a wonderful way.

When we tasted our first piece, I knew what she meant. It was rich and delicious, with a backnote of hay and a definite lambiness. We ate it sparingly, roasting a piece for one meal and eating it the following couple of days as a deeply flavoured stew. Knowing that our lamb had frolicked carelessly in the sun and basked in the care of Mark and Jean made the meat even better to eat. Each meal was a small celebration - which is just as it should be when we remember to thank the universe for providing us with such delicious things to put in our mouths and feed our bodies with.

When I came to the packet of mince that was also part of the box I wanted to make some meatballs that really tasted of something - without overpowering this delicious lamb. I wanted an onion tang, but mild and warm onion. My eye lighted on a packet of nigella seeds (black onion) and soon I had added a bunch of chives and the smoked paprika to make a warm, sweet smoky trinity.

We ate the meatballs straight out of the pan with a bowl full of steamed vegetables, but you could add them to a ragout and pile onto pasta or drop them into a soup or stew after frying. They have a vague hint of naan bread about them from the nigella seeds that suggests they would also be delicious with some rice, raita and a good sprinkling of cayenne.

Lamb Meatballs with Nigella Seeds and Smoked Paprika (SCD) Serves 4 - 6

1 lb lamb mince
1oz ground almonds (almond flour)
4 spring onions (scallions)
1 large free range egg
bunch of chives
2 tsp nigella seeds
heaped tsp sweet smoked paprika (make sure it has no added starch)
few pinches of sea salt flakes

Chop the spring onions and chives finely and put in a bowl with all the other ingredients, (crack in the egg). Then either smoosh it all together with your hands or a fork and roll into walnut sized balls, setting the balls on a chopping board or plate as you go.

When you're ready to eat, coat a frying pan in a little oil and set over a medium heat. Fry the balls on one side until golden and then turn and fry the other side till golden - drain on kitchen paper and keep warm while you cook the rest. Eat straight away or cool and add to soup or ragout etc, making sure they are thoroughly hot before serving.