Baked Lebanese lamb meatballs with peas and labna

Baked Lebanese lamb meatballs with peas & labna
Baked Lebanese lamb meatballs with peas & labna Photo: Marcel Aucar

The peas are as much the star of this dish as the meatballs, and both go beautifully with the baked labna. This flavourful bake makes a great midweek meal. It's also really quick to put together and the leftovers are delicious as they are or used to fill rolls or pita pockets.

Ingredients

300g thick plain yoghurt

100ml extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 tbsp tomato paste

150ml dry white wine

3 large ripe tomatoes, diced

250ml passata

salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

300g frozen peas

¼ bunch fresh mint, picked and chopped

1 handful pickled green chillies

Meatballs

200g sourdough bread slices, crusts removed

200ml milk

500g lean lamb mince

2 eggs

1 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp ground allspice

2 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tsp dried mint

salt flakes

Method

To make the labna, line a sieve with some muslin or a clean Chux cloth and spoon in the yoghurt. Place over a bowl and refrigerate for two hours to drain off some of the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan-forced or 220°C conventional.

For the meatballs, rip the bread into small pieces and soak in the milk in a small bowl.

Mix the mince, eggs, pepper, allspice, chilli flakes and dried mint in a large bowl, season and then combine with the milky bread. Roll into egg-sized portions and place on a large lined tray. Bake for six minutes.

Heat the oil in a large, wide-based pot over medium heat. Add the onion and fry for about four minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden and caramelised. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for one minute. Add the wine, let it bubble until almost evaporated and then add the diced tomato, passata and 500 millilitres of water. Season, bring to a fast simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add the frozen peas and half the fresh mint and take off the heat. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Arrange the lamb meatballs in a baking dish, pour over the tomato and pea sauce, dollop the labna on top and bake for about 25 minutes. The yoghurt will dry out a little and start to colour. Sprinkle with the rest of the mint and the pickled chillies and serve with rice or pita bread.

 

Tips

1. You could use beef, pork or even chicken instead of lamb.

2. Labna is also delicious spread on grilled bread with some cured meat or olive paste, or rolled in dukka and eaten with flatbread and pickles. Leave it to drain overnight for a firmer result.

3. The sauce is also great with pasta.