July 18th, 2012
Let’s play a game. Ready?
You say: MEATBALL.
Wanna know what I say?
Having grown up in New Jersey, and now living in Brooklyn, I associate meatballs with Italian-American food. Spaghetti and meatballs was a staple of my childhood diet—and still is. When I try to change things up, I end up skipping the spaghetti for something like Escarole, White Bean, and Meatball Soup. But the meatballs? I always end up making them Italian-style. And why not?! Good Italian meatballs are food from the heavens.
I’ve tried to break from my Italian meatball habit. Remember when I learned how to make these easy, tender turkey meatballs from my sitter? They are great (and, really, soooo easy), but I still serve them Italian-style over pasta.
And way back when the Hungry Boy was starting finger foods, I made super health charged meatballs with wheat germ (instead of bread crumbs), cottage cheese, sweet potato and spinach. That was nearly 5 years ago, and I’ve since made a commitment to a single family meal. Those meatballs were tasty but, uh, not the hungry papa’s favorite.
So, though I try, honestly, I haven’t had much success in changing up my meatball style until now. I’m not sure what it took to finally push me to experiment, but I’m thrilled that I did. Because, really, the Italian thing aside, meatballs are a near perfect food. They are fun to make, you can easily control the size and portion, kids love them, you can share them with early eaters and, apparently, you can flavor a million ways! Thai style chicken meatballs, Vietnamese shrimp meatballs, Greek lamb meatballs with rice, French style with herbs de provence and wine, Swedish meatballs, Hungarian meatballs with mushrooms and, of course, these Indian spiced lamb and beef meatballs.
I must say: I even impressed myself with these. They are bold and aromatic, packed with flavor but not overwhelming or spicy. They have a great texture—you fry the outside until crispy and browned, while the inside stays moist thanks to coconut milk, which also gives a whisper of flavor.
Layer my Quick Indian Style Spinach over quinoa or rice (I used a combination of quinoa and barley; basmati or jasmine rice work well) and top the whole thing with a couple of these meatballs for a dinner that comes together in about 40 minutes, start to finish (even faster if you make parts—like the spinach, rice or meatballs—ahead of time). Totally delicious and—let’s take a second to marvel at this—a kid-friendly meal that has healthy grains, spinach, chickpeas, and an easily portioned animal protein. Perfection!
Indian Spiced Meatballs
(can be shared with kids 8+ mos)*
makes about 16 meatballs
1/2 pound ground lamb
1/2 pound ground beef
1/3 cup coconut milk
2 large cloves garlic, grated
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of cardamom
1 tablespoon salted butter, plus more as necessary
1. In a large bowl, combine lamb, beef, coconut milk, garlic, breadcrumbs, coriander, cumin, pepper, salt, ginger, tumeric, cinnamon, and cardamom. Using your hands, mix until well combined.
2. Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly.
3. In the meantime, heat butter in a large pan set over medium heat. Once the melted butter is hot, add as many meatballs as fit making sure to keep them from touching. (You may have to cook the meatballs in batches.) Brown one side, carefully turn the meatballs, and brown the other. When the meatballs is nicely browned nearly all around, add a scant 1/4 cup of water and cover the pan. Finish cooking until the meatballs are cooked through, about 3 minutes. If cooking in batches, remove the first batch and add the second. Unless using super lean meat, you shouldn’t have to add more butter to cook the second batch.
*Note: Meatballs make a great early finger food and these, in particular, are full of bold spices that can excite young palates! While there is nothing in this recipe that is unsafe for younger eaters, I recommend these for kids 8+ months so that kiddo can practice their finger food eating skills. If you’d like to share these with younger eaters, be sure to pulse them in a food processor until they are an age-appropraite texture.