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Lamb meatballs with barberries, dried figs, yogurt, and herbs

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

Barberries are little red jewels, tart and delicious. They are most often used in Persian cuisine, and have cultural significance in wedding dishes, where their tartness symbol that life is not always sweet. These tiny berries are also seen in some North African cuisines where they are used instead of sumac. They are growing in popularity recently and are easily purchased at any Mediterranean store or on Amazon.

This meatball dish is a very traditional Middle Eastern dish with lots of flavor. The tender meatballs are packed with delicious goodness and soaked in a broth that is a touch sweetened with dried figs and flavored with tons of fresh herbs, The yogurt tempers the flavors giving the dish a creamy texture. A lot of delicious-ness in one bowl. I serve this dish usually with bread, but you can also serve it with naan, couscous or rice.

Also check out this amazing meatball recipe on this site, Spiced Lamb Meatballs "Bar Oso".

Ottolenghi is a genius, and one of the first chefs to bring real Middle Eastern cuisine to the Western world. His cookbooks, yes I have all of them, are filled with wonderful recipes packed with flavor. I so want to dine at each of his restaurants in London!

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


For the meatballs:

1 lb ground lamb, however, you can substitute ground beef or ground chicken

1 large onion, finely minced

1/2 cup parsley, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons barberries

1 egg

Salt and pepper to taste

Oil as needed

For the sauce:

1 lb shallots, thinly sliced

2-3 tablespoons oil

3/4 cup white wine or substitute 1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 cups chicken stock or water

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

5 oz dried figs, halved or quartered

1 cup yogurt, whisked smooth

1 cup mixed fresh herbs including mint, dill, cilantro and basil

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

Salt and pepper to taste

To make the meatballs, mix all the ingredients together. I generally fry a small taster patty, about 1 teaspoon in size, to taste for salt and herbs. Adjust as needed. Make small meatballs about the size of a golf ball. As a note, the less you work the meatballs the softer they tend to be.

The meat I use is usually 12-15% fat so I do not need oil. Fry the meatballs keeping them well spaced so they do not steam. You may have to fry them in 2-3 batches. Remove and set aside. The inside of the meatballs may still be raw, that is okay.

Add the oil to a deep pot and warm on medium heat. Add the shallots, dried thyme and bay leaf and fry till the shallots are golden. Add the wine and bubble till reduced and the smell of alcohol has evaporated. Add the chicken stock or water and bring to a simmer. Add the dried figs, salt, pepper and meatballs with any drippings, the meatballs should be almost fully submerged in the broth, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring carefully from time to time. When the timer goes off, turn the heat off and taste for salt, tartness, sweet and spice. Sprinkle most of the fresh herbs onto the dish and mix in.

When ready to serve, heat up the meatballs in their broth. The sauce tends to get absorbed by the meatballs, feel free to add a touch of water if required. Ladle gently into small bowls and sprinkle with the remaining herbs and add the yogurt in small dollops. Serve with bread, naan, couscous or rice.

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