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Ottolenghi’s Meatballs with Fava Beans & Lemon

This recipe is from the “Jerusalem” cookbook – a fantastic volume I reach for again and again. There are many great recipes, but also many entrancing photographs that highlight the diversity of cultures and flavors in this great city.

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4 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 1/3 cups fava beans, fresh or frozen
4 whole thyme sprigs
6 garlic cloves, sliced
8 spring onions, cut at an angle into 3/4 inch segments
2½ tbsp lemon juice
2 cups chicken stock
salt and black pepper
1 1/2 tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley, mint, dill and cilantro, to finish

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for the meatballs
10 oz ground beef
5 oz ground lamb
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsp each chopped flat-leaf parsley, mint, dill and cilantro, plus ½ tbsp extra of each to finish
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
4 tsp baharat spice mix
4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp capers, chopped
1 egg, beaten

Put all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl. Add 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper and mix well with your hands. Form into balls about the same size of ping-pong balls. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in an extra-large frying pan for which you have a lid. Sear half the meatballs over a medium heat, turning them until they are brown all over – this will take about five minutes. Remove from the pan, add another 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the pan and cook the other batch of meatballs. Once browned all over, remove these from the pan, too, then wipe it clean with kitchen towel.

While the meatballs are cooking, throw the fava beans into a pot with plenty of salted boiling water and blanch for two minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water, then remove and discard the skins from half the fava beans. Note: I also used frozen lima beans, which work great.

Heat the remaining oil in the meatball pan, add the thyme, garlic and spring onion, and sauté over a medium heat for three minutes. Add the unshelled fava beans, one and a half tablespoons of the lemon juice, 1/3 cup of the stock, 1/4 tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper. The beans should be almost covered by liquid. Pop on the lid and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.

Return the meatballs to the pan, add the remaining stock, cover again and simmer gently for 25 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. If it is still very runny, remove the lid and reduce a little. Once the meatballs stop cooking, they will soak up a lot of the juices, so make sure there is still plenty of sauce at this point. You can leave the meatballs now, off the heat, until you’re ready to serve.

Just before serving, reheat the meatballs and add a little water, if needed, to get enough sauce. Gently stir in the remaining herbs, lemon juice and the shelled fava beans and serve immediately.

makes about 20 meat balls – serves 4

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