Lamb meatballs made with a generous cumin allowance, feta cheese crumbles and a touch of pilsner lager, served over buttery Israeli couscous with pine nuts, feta and mint, and accompanied by a delightful yogurt dip. Are you in?
Psst. These are also perfect for stuffing pita pockets or eaten with a tomato cucumber salad.
Objectively, I have to say that you will not taste much of the pilsner’s gorgeous bready flavors because this recipe calls for a lot of cumin which obliterates the subtle pilsner notes. It is worth it though, I promise. Cumin+ground lamb=heaven.
The texture of the lamb meatballs on the other hand does benefit from the lager’s carbonation. They turn out light, plump and fluffy, with just enough density to hold all the juices. Simply perfect.
Many years ago I learned from my grandmother that light and juicy meatballs must either have yogurt and bit of baking soda in them or beer. I cannot say that one approach is better than the other because I love them both. Both help the meatballs rise. Both yield amazing results but since this is a blog about the delights of craft beer and the joys of cooking with it… we went with beer:)
We selected pilsner because it is THE beer style that best partners with cumin and feta cheese. I say that based on years of consuming all three in some shape or form.
By the way, if interested, check out this Pilsner and Feta Cheese Fondue.
For the record we used a very delicious unfiltered pilsner, called Cereal Keller and brewed by our local WeldWerks Brewing. It claims to have been brewed in the Keller Pils tradition, but with 15 % flaked corn in the grain bill and less hops than a typical Keller Pils. To us it tasted nothing like a Keller Pils, but it was really good in its own right. We found it to have a very pleasant grainy sweetness and subdued Noble hops bite, very crisp and the carbonation was just right. With ABV 4.7% Chris and I enjoyed crushing two pint cans each with dinner. The lamb meatballs looked and tasted happy as well.
You can fry or bake these lamb meatballs, it is up to you. Well, technically you can grill them for the most amazing of results, but our circumstances involved snow.
In the pictures, you see them baked. We both think that when they are fried they taste better than baked…most things do, don’t they? It is just that baking is much easier, especially when you are short on time. If you do decide to go with frying them, you may as well include some fries. Topped with feta, like these.
If you go the baking route, have a small ramekin with olive oil and a brush handy once you take them out. Brush them with olive oil to prevent them from forming a crust. Even though they will be airy and juicy inside, an outside crust can form once out of the oven, especially here in Colorado where it is soooo very dry.
Last, but not least – the yogurt dip and the Israeli couscous. You can make any yogurt dip, but I recommend my recipe🙂 The couscous has a ton of butter toasted pine nuts mixed in and as much feta and mint as you care to add to it. It is also cooked in chicken stock, for max flavor. You will enjoy.
On a very personal note – these lamb meatballs are the first thing we cooked since our son had an emergency appendectomy after two days of excruciating pain and severe dehydration because he couldn’t keep anything down this past Easter weekend. We are so very grateful for his fighting spirit and the help he got in ER and the aaahmazing surgeon who operated on him.
He is the most incredible little boy. He is only seven and can write paragraphs in Mandarin without having to look up the characters – they are memorized. He is nearly fluent in Spanish. He has been immersed in both languages since he was four and won the heart of every tutor and teacher he’s had. He has a real knack for languages, including Java script as of late. But also a work ethic like 95% of adults will never know. It comes from within him, we have never pressured him, just obliged and made resources available to him. His imagination knows no bounds and he never stops smiling. Even when in pain. We have never met a kinder individual. We like to say that our real purpose on this world is to support him to reach his true potential. He will help a lot of people, he really will. So blessed to have him in our lives. And he loooves meatballs. And one day, he will love craft beer:)
- 1 lb ground lamb (lean)
- 1 egg
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- ⅓ cup Pilsner (sub with 3 tbsp plain yogurt + 1 tsp baking soda)
- ⅓ cup crumbled feta (sheeps milk, in brine is best)
- 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- ¼ cup green onions, sliced very thin
- 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
- 1½ tsp ground cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- ⅓ cup olive oil + 2 tbsp
- For the Couscous:
- 3 tbsp butter
- ½ cup pine nuts
- 1½ cups Israeli couscous
- 1¾ cups chicken broth
- salt & pepper to taste
- ⅓ cup feta cheese crumbles
- fresh mint, to taste
- For the Yogurt Dip:
- Use this recipe https://craftbeering.com/easy-yogurt-dip-recipe/
- To prepare the lamb meatballs:
- Turn oven on to 350 F.
- In a mixing bowl combine all the ingredients except for the olive oil and combine using your hands until a uniform mixture is achieved.
- Prepare a parchment paper lined half sheet pan (or two quarter sheet pans).
- Dip fingers in the ⅓ cup of olive oil and start to form small meatballs (use a 1 tbsp measure to make them uniform in size). Place the meatballs onto the sheet pan.
- Bake for 25 -30 mins (depending on your oven) and let cool off for a minute before brushing with the 2 tbsp olive oil.
- For the Couscous:
- In a large pan over medium low heat melt 1 tbsp butter and add the pine nuts. Stir and cook until they turn golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Melt the rest of the butter in the same pan over medium heat.
- Add the couscous and stir, cook until it is slightly browned.
- Add the chicken broth and season with salt and pepper. Increase the heat and bring to a boil.
- Stir well, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the couscous absorbs all the liquid.
- Remove from heat, add the pine nuts, stir and let cool off slightly.
- Transfer to a serving platter, add the feta crumbles and mint and stir a little bit.
- Serve with the lamb meatballs and the yogurt sauce on the side.