Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Chicken meatballs in yoghurt and Aleppo pepper butter. Perfect Winter Fodder

While the other side of the world gets to enjoy the starting heat of summer with watermelon and peach Caprese salads poolside, we're freezing our asses off, donning ugg boots, and finding small pleasures in the culinary opportunities this kind of weather provides. Like meatballs. Get-in-your-face meatballs, like these spiced chicken and hot yoghurt meatballs that are comforting and soul-fortifying in a way that stops you in your tracks. Something about them enables you to recollect and reconnect, and I find them as therapeutic to make as pie - it must be all the smooshing and rolling.
These spicy meatballs are swimming in yoghurt sauce and you can serve them with a simple salad, warm greens, or a nice nutty pilaf. The opportunities and options with a good plate of meatballs are endless. With pasta. With salad. On a toastie. Cold from the fridge at midnight. Frozen for a later date. Meatballs. You know you are onto a good thing.
Serves 4 to 6
500g excellent quality chicken mince
1 egg
½ cup sourdough or brioche breadcrumbs
½ red onion, finely chopped
3 tsp oregano, finely chopped
3 tsp tarragon, finely chopped
Pinch salt flakes
1 tsp toasted and ground cumin
½ tsp dried mint
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken stock

2 cups plain yoghurt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup dill, leaves pulled, finely chopped plus more to garnish
¼ cup mint, leaves pulled, finely chopped plus more to garnish
1 tbsp butter, melted
Generous pinch ground Aleppo pepper
Pinch toasted cumin seeds

To serve
Hot fluffy pita bread

Preheat oven to 180C.
For the meatballs, combine all ingredients - except the olive oil and chicken stock - in a bowl and mix well using your hands to thoroughly incorporate and combine. Roll and shape the mixture into about 20 balls. If you need to, dip your hands in cold water to stop the mixture from sticking to them.
Line a tagine bowl or baking dish with a generous lug of olive oil. Place the meatballs in the dish in a single layer and gently turn them to coat in oil. Place in the oven and cook until brown - about 15 minutes. During cooking time, try to turn them a few times so they achieve an even colouring all over.
Remove from the heat and pour over the chicken stock. Return to the heat and cook for 10 minutes; you want the meatballs to continue cooking in the liquid at a gentle simmer.
Remove from the heat, then gently transfer meatballs to a plate, reserving the cooking liquid.
In a large bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, egg, garlic, dill and mint. Slowly add the hot chicken stock, about ¼ cup at a time - you will probably only need ½ a cup in total but this can vary with the liquidity of the yoghurt used. Pour the mixture into a frying pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the sauce very obviously thickens and is just beginning to bubble and simmer. Season. Add the meatballs to the yoghurt sauce to warm through and turn to coat in the yoghurt sauce.
To make the Aleppo pepper butter, add the butter to a small frypan and place over medium heat. Cook until the butter just starts to foam and add the pepper, swirling constantly so the butter doesn't burn.
Divide the meatballs and yoghurt between serving bowls. Add some tabouli and then spoon over the Aleppo butter. Top with freshly chopped herbs and serve with warm pita.

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