This is one of those dishes that just happened, the peas were separate on the plate, but when I packed the leftovers away I mixed them together and it looked so colourful I decided to take a photo and share the recipe with you.
New Zealand is well known for the quality of lamb produced here and we probably eat it at least once a week. Packed with flavour, naturally “grown” in some of the most beautiful and scenic countryside you can ever imagine, we are truly blessed to have such an abundance of good food on our very doorstep.
The other day I took some lamb mince out of the freezer and stood staring at it, hoping for some inspiration as it had been one of those days; well, weeks actually, and I haven’t been as good at my meal planning as I normally am. “Meatballs” popped into my mind and I have to admit, I was pretty darn pleased. Not only are they easy to make, but the entire process of preparing, cooking and dishing up can be done in under 40 minutes. Or if you buy the mince in bulk, prepare a few different flavoured meatballs before packing the uncooked little balls in rows into freezer bags and into the freezer. Don’t forget to label each bag with the flavours used so you can create a few different meals from a single purchase, very economical too. Meatballs are also great when you need a little to go a long way. Adding breadcrumbs bulks them up without affecting the flavour and the options truly are endless.
These particular ones were flavoured with a herb mixture I buy from the South African shop, as I haven’t seen a similar one in New Zealand. It combines dried rosemary with olives and a few other things, but rosemary complements lamb extremely well, so even without the olive ingredients, they will still be full of flavour.
One thing I don’t compromise on when buying mince, and this goes for beef mince as well, I always buy the best quality I can afford. Premium grade has less fat. Prime is still OK, but lesser qualities really do affect the outcome of the dish.
For the meatballs:
400 g lamb mince
½ cup fresh bread crumbs (or Panko work really well too)
1 small onion (or ½ a big one), finely chopped
1 Tbsp Rosemary and Olive herb mixture (or plain Rosemary)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the gravy/sauce:
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ an onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
250 ml lamb stock (beef or chicken can also be used)
1 cup butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
To prepare the meatballs:
- Preheat your oven to 200°C. Finely chop the onion and add to the crumbled mince. Add the bread crumbs if using and sprinkle with the herb mixture, salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Using your hands, ensure that everything is well combined – and I have to include that it is a great stress reliever too, squelching the mixture is quite mesmerizing!
- Add the beaten egg and squelch some more. Roll the mixture into balls, I prefer smaller rather than larger and place them onto a greased or lined oven tray.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally so they are evenly browned. Remove from the oven and add to the pan of simmering sauce.
To prepare the sauce:
- While the meatballs are in the oven, gently fry the chopped onion in the olive oil until translucent and soft. Add any herbs (more rosemary and olive so as not to confuse the flavours).
- Add the garlic and diced butternut and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Pour in the stock and stir through the tomato paste. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and allow the mixture to simmer gently while the butternut softens.
- Add the browned meatballs, spreading them around the pan and coat them with the sauce. Simmer for a further 5 minutes until they are cooked through the centre.
- Serve over pasta, rice or fresh crusty bread (great for soaking up the juices!).