Monday, 19 January 2015

Baked Middle Eastern Meatballs

When I made this dish last week my husband & I laughed at how I was actually trying to re-write the 80's mini classic cook book '100 ways with mince'.
I may have been using a lot of mince in the days previous to this......

Do you know this book?

It was the hardback that helped many a kid graduate to life away from the family kitchen to learning how to cook in their first 'living away from home' situation- including my husband.

Now it mostly graces the bookcases of the local op-shops.

There is a lot to be said for cooking with mince though.  It often gets relegated to the more dreary of recipes- but I think it deserves more of a look in.

It is a great way to slap up some quick and delicious meals & it really is an affordable meat.
So......the other night when the day had got the better of me and I was panicked by the time on the clock and the fact that I had not even thought about dinner - well I had pulled out some lovely Warialda Beef mince from the freezer first thing in the morning to defrost- but apart from that......

So I looked in the fridge & pantry for inspiration and this was what I came up with.
A lovely rich aromatic all in one dish with lots of textures. It was a big success and I am sure it will be cooked again.

I really felt like Middle eastern flavours & I also LOVE being able to serve the pot that the meal was cooked in straight to the table.
I love the communal digging in that it allows.  All arms across the table serving themselves. A kind of happy chaos of activity before we all sit down together to eat.

Whilst this dish is ultimately served at the table in one dish, it actually needs a couple of pots to start off.
I think you could get away with doing it all in one dish but that some of the flavours that help it's richness would be missing. 

It uses a couple of spice mixes that are commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine that may be new to you- Za'atar & Baharat.
Za'atar is a mix of herbs, sesame seeds & salt.
Baharat is a mix of spices.
Both can be found in good Delicatessens.

I made it so that we each had one meatball each as it combines rice and sauce. The meatballs are rolled to be a large size. We have seven in our family so we had seven meatballs in the finished dish.
The preserved lemon & the fetta add a lovely acidity and zing to the rich aromatics.


  • 500g beef mince
  • 3 cans tomatoes
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1  1/2 litres Chicken stock
  • 1 large onion,  finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon Baharat
  • 1 teaspoon Za'atar
  • 1 quarter preserved lemon, flesh removed & discarded and peel diced finely
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 cup fetta, crumbled
  • olive oil
  • lots of fresh chopped coriander & mint to serve

Preheat the oven to 160C.

In a large bowl mix half of the chopped onion, 1 teaspoon za'atar, the preserved lemon, one teaspoon cumin, 1/2 cup of the pine nuts and the mince.

Mix through your hands well until amalgamated well.

Now make large meatballs- as large as your palm. 

Fry the meatballs (3 at a time) in olive oil on a medium high heat in a non stick pan to brown the outside- it is not necessary for the inside to cook.  We are browning them to achieve a lovely caramel flavour for the final dish.  The remaining cooking will take place in the oven.
Set the browned meatballs aside while you start the sauce.

In a non stick pan, fry the remaining half of onion in a good glug of olive oil until translucent.
Add garlic, 1 teaspoon cumin, baharat and bay leaves.
Now add the basmati rice and stir through.
Add the canned tomatoes and the chicken stock.
Bring to a simmer & then turn off the heat.

Find an ovenproof dish large enough to hold the meat balls and the sauce.  I like my meatballs to pop out the top- it helps them stay brown and crispy and looks great when served at the table.

In your dish pour the sauce evenly across the dish.  Now place the meatballs into the sauce & place carefully into the oven for 20 minutes.

10 minutes before serving, remove dish form oven and scatter the fetta across the dish and place back into the oven  for final 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with remaining Pine nuts and herbs.
Serve with lemon wedges  & Parsley salad.


  1. I probably sound like a real dope but mince is my favourite meat. It's so versatile & I'm not a fan of huge chunks of meat so mince suits me just fine.

    I'm going to give this a go Ruth. I don't have the spice mixes or preserved lemons ( I tried making some a few months back & they went mouldy) but hopefully I'll find them easily. It sounds bloody delicious !

  2. This is on the list to make later in the week Ruth. I love mince recipes, especially ones with these kinds of rich flavours. Yummy! x

  3. This looks and sounds delicious! Mince is such a great thing to have in the fridge for those 'holy crap there's nothing for dinner' moments. We normally end up with tacos, or spaghetti, but I've bookmarked this to add to the repertoire.

    Sausages are our other fall back no-time-to-shop-or-cook option. We had them last night 'fancy' style - in a crusty bread roll with tomato relish, caramelised onion, aged cheddar and rocket. Super tasty and super easy!


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