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Recipe: One Pan Greek Lamb Meatballs with Orzo & Feta
I’ve only ever eaten terrible food in Greece. I’ve been twice on school trips, and the problem with these albeit amazing experiences around the classical world (I studied classics right up to my second year of undergrad) is that they were highly budgeted. I remember after one trip we had a reunion dinner in Canterbury (in the little Greek restaurant that is now Oscar & Bentley, but if you’re after great Greek food in Canterbury I adore Zeus) and we talked about how much better the Greek food was in England, than in Greece! However, the bright, Mediterranean flavours, and some fantastic Greek food I’ve had here in the UK has totally won me over, to the point where I actually love cooking Greek food at home, ignoring what I’ve actually eaten there!
This easy, one pan meatball and orzo (tiny greek pasta shapes) number is not strictly, traditionally Greek, it is a Greek-inspired spin on the beef meatballs with orzo in Nigella’s latest book At My Table. As with all of Nigella’s books, it is full of tempting recipes you can’t wait to dive into, and while there is a special spring number I’m so excited to share and shoot in our new family kitchen in Kent once it is ready – where I’ll also properly review the book – I wanted to share this today as we’re coming up for Easter (and of course it is the first day of spring today, although that is also sort of terrifying as I also turn 25 today!), and I think it would make the perfect Greek-style dish to make for family and friends with a big bottle of red at the weekend. It also re-heats beautifully, looks impressive as you bring it to the table, and is pure comfort in a bowl.
Another reason this dish is excellent is that with a well stocked kitchen, you can always have this in your back pocket for when you’ve forgotten to go food shopping. Feta has stupidly long use by dates if you get it in the supermarket so I always try to have some in the fridge for emergency use, and you’ll never be short of fresh herbs if you keep a pot in the kitchen – mine is Greek basil at the moment. Tinned tomatoes are one of the best store cupboard stables to buy in bulk (do this and you’ll never run out of pasta sauce ever again), and orzo comes in such a small pack I promise you you’ll have room to slot it next to your regular pasta. As for the lamb mince you’ll be making your meatballs out of, I’m a religious visitor of the reduced to clear, yellow sticker section in Waitrose, and as a result I’ve always good a good selection of different meats to defrost and choose from for dinner.
I keep a freezer list on my iPad so I always know what I’ve got when I’m planning meals to save a bit of money (good quality meat costs a fair bit full price!) At the moment I’ve got some chicken livers in there (two portions for 79p!), beef braising steak, spare ribs, mixed game casserole pieces, lamb mince and diced veal, all discounted and ready to go!
The portion sizes on this are a bit funny. I want to say it is a serves 6, but with a generous side salad you could stretch it to 8 people, or by itself it will happily feed 4 people with very big appetites (boys, basically!) Basically, make the whole thing, and bring it to the table so people can eat as much or as little if they want to. As Nigella would say, rejoice in the leftovers!
This hearty one pan of Greek Lamb Meatballs with Orzo and Feta is a great dish to make on a lazy weekend, delicious scattered with fresh Greek basil or oregano.
1 x 400g (14 oz) (or the closest to) Pack Lamb Mince
1 Large Egg
2 tbsp Panko Breadcrumbs
1 Large Garlic Clove, crushed
1/2 tbsp + 2 tsp Dried Oregano
1 Small Onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp Greek Basil or Fresh Oregano Leaves, plus extra to garnish
4 tbsp Red Wine
2 x 400g (14 oz) Tinned Chopped Tomatoes
275g (10 oz) Orzo
60g (3 oz) Feta
To make the meatballs, combine the lamb mince, egg, breadcrumbs, 1 1/2 tsp of sea salt, the crushed garlic, and 1/2 tsp of dried oregano in a large bowl. Make sure the mixture is completely combined, but try to use a light hand for the tenderest meatballs possible.
Roll the mixture into approximately 26 small, walnut sized meatballs and set aside on a cutting board.
Heat a generous splash of light oil (mild olive, vegetable, sunflower and rapeseed will all work) in the bottom of a large, lidded, shallow casserole dish over a medium heat, and gently fry the onion until the pieces have softened, but now browned.
Stir in the Greek Basil and the dried oregano, then add the wine. Let it bubble away for a minute or two, the add the tomatoes. Fill a jug with a litre of water (4 cups) and use some of this to rinse any residual tomato juice from the tins into the pan, then add the rest along with the salt.
Put on the lid, turn the heat down to low and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the meatballs, put the lid back on, and allow to cook for another 20 minutes. Remove the lid, stir in the orzo, and turn the heat up to medium high. Allow the mixture to cook, bubbling away for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the pasta is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the pasta is tender and almost all of the liquid has absorbed.
Remove from the heat, sprinkle with Greek Basil or fresh oregano, and crumble over the feta. Serve immediately.
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