For those of you who are wondering what the heck a "flatball" might be, it is basically a flat meatball, a burger shape, a small circular "cake" shape. Now I have an unreasonable hatred of the word "patty" ..... arrrgh, I hates it, hates it I tells ya! So I won't be using that one, but that's basically what a flatball is.
So, having explained that, let's talk about the dish.
In the past, I have made all sorts of different variations of this dish of which the Harissa Lamb in Flatbreads with Tzatziki and the Kibbeh Meatballs in Pitta Bread are great examples. However, there is a certain clumsiness involved in trying to eat either a flatbread or a pitta bread that is stuffed with small ball shaped items that are constantly trying to escape. More often than not, with me, they do escape - right down my cleavage. Which is a neat trough for them to land in, but can be embarrassing when it comes to retrieval - and boy, that Harissa really does leave a stain!
|Flatballs .... see? :)|
This is why, when I was thinking about doing the Harissa paste/Lamb mince thing again, I decided to go with the flatball option, instead of a meatball shape. The good news is, that it works and works beautifully. Each flatball sits nicely and behaves itself well as you munch your way through. There is inevitably the occasional bid for freedom, but it is a whole lot easier to keep under control than having three or four wilful meatballs in your sandwich.
|Basic hummus - recipe from "Jerusalem"|
|Be aware that they spit absolutely EVERYWHERE! lol|
I wanted to use some of my home made hummus in the flatball recipe, but don't feel you have to. By all means buy in a good reliable hummus (Sabra is our favourite) to use instead. If you buy in some dipping ammunition (carrot sticks, apple slices, pitta bread, oatcakes - you get the idea), you can make very good use of the leftovers one evening, with a glass of wine.
The Tzatziki is simplicity itself to make, however I did give it a little bit of extra glamour by adding a spoonful of soured cream (I had some looking for a home to go to), baby cucumbers diced very finely (I adore those baby cucumbers) and mint from the garden. But again, if you don't fancy making it or don't have the time/ingredients - just buy some. Life is to short to be agonising over bought -v- home made tzatziki .
Now don't be tempted to leave the rocket out of the mix. I know it's not the cheapest thing to buy (although it has come down in price just lately), but you can use up the remainder as an additional salad leaf - and it can be used to great effect in sandwiches at lunchtime, too. The rocket adds that textural crisp crunchiness that is so important when all the other ingredients are soft. Plus, its lovely peppery flavour goes so well and adds that extra dimension to the overall flavour.
Due to the flatbreads providing the carbohydrate input, I didn't think we needed any additional carbs, so served the flatbread/flatballs with a simple salad of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, baby red peppers and red onion. It really didn't need anything more than that to make a perfect evening meal.
This sort of food is perfect teenager fuel. My own personal teenager - son & heir - was so in love with these that I'm sure he'd be happy no matter how many times I served them in a week. They have everything a teenager loves - meat, spice, richness and can be eaten with the fingers. From a Mum's perspective, they provide all the nutrients that your teenager needs in order to grow well, plus the additional benefits of fibre and fresh food - all of which can be difficult to get into a teenager. Everyone enjoyed the meal and if you have youngsters in the family, I'd suggest making some flatballs that have less or no Harissa in them and cooking them off first, so that everyone can have what looks like the same meal and the little ones can feel all grown up. We had two each, but for a smaller appetite I'm quite sure that just one - with the accompanying salad - would be sufficient.
Oh and the other big advantage of this meal, is that it is simplicity itself to put together. How simply marvellous! A meal with virtually no guilt burden. Hurrah!
For the tzatziki :
150g greek yoghurt
50g sour cream
2-3 baby cucumbers or a 2" chunk of cucumber with seed removed, diced finely
1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped finely
1 tsp mint sauce - the vinegary one
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
For the flatballs :
500g minced lamb, fresh from the fridge and very cold
3 tsp Harissa paste (or to taste)
half a red onion, finely diced
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp fresh finely chopped mint
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp sunflower oil
6 flatbreads (I used sundried tomato & onion flavour ones, but plain would do fine)
To make the tzatziki, spoon out the Greek yoghurt and sour cream into a bowl and mix together. Add the chopped cucumbers, mint and mint sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine, taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary, then leave to let the flavours mingle.
In a large bowl, combine the minced lamb with the Harissa paste, red onion, chopped mint, dried rosemary, egg yolk and a good pinch each of salt and pepper. Mix well so that the ingredients are well combined.
Smooth the top of the mixture, then divide into six by - with the tip of your spoon - drawing a line across to halve, then divide each half into three with two more lines. This should ensure that you get roughly the same amount for each flatball.
Spoon out one sixth of the mixture into the palm of your hand and shape it into a flatball - or burger - shape approximately a half inch thick (or less), making sure to press it together to prevent any breaking apart later on in the pan. Place it on a chopping board and continue to shape the remaining five.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a moderate to high heat, then gently place three of the flatballs into the pan. Don't try and cook all six together, as this will overcrowd the pan and they'll just poach - which you don't want! As soon as they are in the pan, leave them alone. Don't be tempted to turn them, move them or fiddle about with them at all. When you can see a line of browned lamb creeping up the side of each flatball and the underside is lovely and golden brown, then turn them carefully onto the uncooked side and leave them alone again.
Once the line of browned lamb has met up with the other side and both sides are golden brown, the juice has stopped flowing freely (but hasn't disappeared altogether) - which takes around 15-20 minutes - remove the flatballs from the pan and place onto kitchen paper and put somewhere to keep warm while you cook the remaining three. You will know when they are cooked through, as when pressed on top they will provide some resistance.
Once all the flatballs are cooked, toast the flatbreads lightly to warm them up.
Take a flatbread and spread the whole of one side with a good layer of hummus. Lay a small bunch of rocket on top of the hummus, followed by the flatball and finish with a good spoonful of the tzatziki. Fold the unladen side of the flatbread over and serve with a simple salad and a napkin for the fingers!