This is the no man's land of spring dinners and perfect for now. It's warming and comforting; soupy for those of us still in the last grips of cold and bright enough in flavour and herb action to have us hurtling into the warmer months. Regardless of where you fall, this is rich and light in equal measure. Be careful with the meatballs – the addition of dairy makes them softer than many other recipes, so allow for those first few minutes of cooking before gently turning them.
800g lamb mince
3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ cup flat-leaf parsley, very finely chopped
½ cup dill fronds, very finely chopped
1 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted and roughly crushed
pinch chilli flakes
½ cup Greek-style yoghurt (or sour cream)
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely diced
1 small fennel, half very finely diced, half finely sliced for serving
1 cup white wine
1 cup tinned diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups Israeli cous cous, cooked
½ cup Persian-style feta
about 2 cups mixed spring greens and herbs (I used ½ cup each of peas, sugar snap peas, dill, watercress and flat-leaf parsley)
1. Add the meatball ingredients to a large bowl and use your hands to incorporate. Roll the mixture into balls roughly the size of golf balls.
2. Place a high-sided frying pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and once hot, add the onion and sweat for 1-2 minutes. Add the fennel and cook for a further minute until soft and fragrant. Add the white wine, tinned tomatoes and chicken stock and turn the heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes – you want to concentrate the flavours but not have too much liquid evaporate.
3. While the soup is simmering, place another frying pan over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and once hot, add the meatballs, cooking for 1-2 minutes until they begin to take on colour, then gently turn them to colour on all sides until just cooked through, about another 5 minutes. It is always worth sacrificing a meatball – break it apart and check the centre is just cooked.
4. Add the cooked cous cous to the soup mixture to warm through, then divide the mixture between serving bowls. Top with some meatballs, scatter with feta, sliced fennel and assorted spring greens and herbs. Season generously with salt and pepper and serve while piping hot.