While most vegetables are never as good frozen as they are fresh (who hasn't defrosted a box of broccoli, only to find it limp, mushy, and bordering on brown?) peas are an exception. It's true that frozen peas are not quite as verdant or flavorful as those straight from the pod, but they do retain that first burst of sweetness when you bite into them.
Simon Hopkinson, author of this week's Cook the Book selection, Second Helpings of Roast Chicken, believes that "a more perfectly frozen vegetable than the pea you could never wish for." One of his favorite pea-centric dishes is a variation on Indian keema curry (chopped lamb) that is served at the Standard Indian Restaurant in Bayswater, London.
Today's recipe for Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Peas is Hopkinson's take on the restaurant's classic dish. Instead of simply cooking the ground lamb in a sauté pan with a rainbow of heady spices, Hopkinson compresses the lamb and spices together into koftas, or meatballs. The dish is then finished with tomatoes, yogurt, and—of course—peas. This incredibly fragrant dish is best served with plain white rice or simply boiled potatoes.
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Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Peas
- Yield:4 servings
- 4 small onions, peeled and finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 lbs minced lamb shoulder
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds plus 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, dry roasted together in a frying pan until fragrant, then ground with a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint
- 1 egg, beaten
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 stick cinnamon
- 4 whole cloves
- 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 12 ounces frozen peas
- 2/3 cup plain yogurt
- Juice of one lemon or lime
- A dozen or so mint leaves, coarsely chopped
Fry the onions and garlic in the oil until golden brown. Cool on a plate. Mix the ground lamb with the spices, salt, mint, and egg.
Form into balls the size of a walnut, roll in flour, and fry in the butter in a roomy, shallow pan until golden brown all over. Put in the cinnamon and cloves and fry for a minute or so together with the meatballs.
Now tip in the tomatoes and peas, allow them to collapse somewhat and exude their juices, and stir in the yogurt. Cook the meatballs for a further 20 minutes.
Finally, add the lemon or lime juice, mint, and a little more salt if necessary. Serve right away with some plain boiled rice, boiled potatoes, or if you prefer, nothing at all.