moroccan spiced lamb meatballs with fresh corn polenta

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One of the most memorable meals we had in Paris was at Verjus wine bar, and one of the most memorable dishes we had at Verjus were these intensely flavored meatballs perched on top of a bed of warm polenta.  I believe it was the first time I had tried naked meatballs, and frankly, I didn’t miss the sauce.  Don’t get me wrong, I love good old Americanized spaghetti and meatballs slathered with tomato sauce, but eating them this way made me appreciate the simple meatball and all of its components so much more – the slight gaminess of the lamb, the freshness of the herbs and the punchiness of the spices – the flavors sang through, boldly and brightly.

I tried recreating this dish last weekend, using ground lamb, ras el hanout {a Moroccan spice blend comprised of cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, and paprika}, toasted cumin and coriander seeds, fresh mint, and sauteed onions and garlic.  The flavor combination was incredible – a savory, slightly sweet, herbal mixture of flavors laced with mellowed onions and garlic.  I also served them over a bed of polenta, but not just any polenta – fresh corn polenta.  I was intrigued by this recipe ever since I came across it in this cookbook, and have been impatiently biding my time until fresh corn started showing up in my grocery store.  The recipe could not be easier, and I cannot tell you how infinitely better fresh corn polenta is than its dried cornmeal counterpart, especially if you can get your hands on sweet, early summer corn and good quality butter.

Recipes continued after the jump>>>

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Recipes

Moroccan Lamb Meatballs 

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon ras el hanout
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Olive oil

Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat and add cumin and coriander seeds.  Heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes, and immediately remove from heat to prevent burning.  Crush cumin and coriander seeds using a mortar and pestle.  Set aside.

In same skillet, heat butter over medium low heat, and add onions.  Saute until transculent and soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant and soft, about 5 minutes.

Put ground lamb in medium bowl.  Add crushed cumin and coriander seeds, ras el hanout, turmeric, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix slightly.  Add sauteed onions and garlic, egg, mint and parsley and mix until just combined {try not to overmix or the meatballs will become tough}.  You could refrigerate the mixture at this point; just bring back to room temperature before cooking.  When ready to cook, form mixture into 1 inch balls.

In same skillet, add enough olive oil to thoroughly coat skillet, and heat over medium heat.   Fry meatballs until light to medium brown on all sides, about 1-3 minutes per side.    Do not overcrowd pan.  Repeat with remaining meatballs.  Sprinkle meatballs with additional mint, if desired.  Serve hot.

Fresh Corn Polenta

Adapted slightly from Ottolenghi’s Plenty

  • 6 ears fresh corn
  • 2 1/4 c. water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for serving {if desired}
  • 7 ounces feta cheese {or Parmesan cheese}
  • 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Remove the leaves and silk from each ear of corn, then chop off the pointed top and stalk.  Stand each ear upright on its base and use a sharp knife to shave off the kernels.

Place the kernels in a medium saucepan and cover them with the water.  Cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer.  Use a slotted spoon to lift the kernels from the water and into a food processor; reserve the cooking liquid.  Process them for a few minutes to break up as much of the kernel as possible.  Add some of the cooking liquid if the mixture becomes too dry to process.

Now return the corn paste to the pan with the cooking liquid and cook, while stirring, on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mixture thickens to a mashed potato consistency.  Fold in the butter, feta {or Parmesan}, salt and some pepper and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Taste and add more salt if needed.  Spoon into bowls, add another pat of butter to each bowl {if desired} and serve hot.

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25 Responses to moroccan spiced lamb meatballs with fresh corn polenta

  1. abrooke65 says:

    Gorgeous! The polenta really elevates this already great dish to another level.

  2. That’s a really interesting take on polenta. The dish sounds great, thanks

    • fleurdeselsf says:

      I was immediately intrigued when I came across the polenta recipe too – I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to make and how incredibly sweet it was – I could have sworn there was added sugar! 🙂

  3. I just love anything with a middle eastern flavor the meatballs sound fantastic, had to laugh about the naked meatballs, LOL! I never heard of fresh corn polenta but LOVE this. Everything sounds so delicious!

  4. Great twist using the polenta. Middle East spices and Lamb were made for each other – lovely dish!

  5. Absolutely wonderful, very creative and very delicious!

  6. ladyredspecs says:

    I love the spiced meatball, I guess they’d be called kofte, but it’s the polenta recipe that has me dashing out to buy fresh corn. Thanks for the inspiration. Gorgeous pics as usual

  7. l'ogresse says:

    Fresh corn polenta ? How interesting ! This whole dish makes me drool…thanks for sharing Lindsay !

  8. Karen says:

    I make spicy lamb meatballs too but I can’t wait to try your version. I’ll have to look for the ras el hanout.

  9. laurasmess says:

    This is just beautiful Lindsay. I just keep staring at your photographs and no other word describes this dish adequately! So glad that you found so much inspiration in Paris. Such a gorgeous city, and you’re the ideal candidate to translate the dishes you tried into a blogging format! Thanks for this recipe. You’re awesome xx

  10. ohlidia says:

    Looks beautiful and delicious! I could just pop those little meatballs in my mouth…

  11. Oh wow, these look great. So glad I stumbled upon your blog! Will certainly be back for more…

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