There’s frost on the ground in the mornings and a big fire stoked in our wood stove. The nights are drawing in and when it’s clear there are more stars visible than I thought possible. Scotland in October is beautiful.
At the butcher, mutton has arrived, specifically from the famed Scottish Black Faced sheep. You know these guys, the ones with horns that curl like cinnamon buns on either side of their adorable black faces? These herds live in the most unspoiled countryside in Britain, feeding on heather, wild grasses, berries and the clear waters of the burns.
Burns? That’d be rivers to you and me.
The point is, these sheep live a fantastic life, which contributes to their flavor on your plate.
Lamb is plentiful in Scotland, and it’s more affordable than beef. My go-to lamb recipe is a boneless shoulder roast from David Tannis’ book A Platter of Figs. It’s simple, cooks (relatively) quickly, and always tastes great. It’s a tried and true standby.
But when I want something with a little more pizzazz, I make these meatballs inspired by Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home. These are wonderful for a weeknight dinner alongside a big Greek salad, and they make terrific party food, since there’s no cutlery needed. Serve with hummus or cucumber tzatziki for a tasty treat.
To make these gluten-free, I use an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend in place of the bread crumbs in the original recipe. You could also substitute rice flour, in the same amount.
The original recipe calls for preserved lemons, which are a cinch to make, but they need to pickle for at least two weeks in the fridge before you can use them. If you haven’t got any on hand, buy these jarred preserved lemons, or substitute the grated zest of one lemon.
If you’re lucky enough to have any left, simply reheat the meatballs in a warm oven for 10 – 15 minutes. They’re just as delicious on the second day.
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon yellow onion
1 garlic clove
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon pickled lemons
8 ounces ground lamb
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1. Mince the onion and garlic. Heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic, onion, salt and pepper, and cook until everything is soft, about 4 – 5 minutes.
2. Finely dice the zucchini (there should be a little more than 1/4 cup) and add to the pan. Cook until the zucchini is tender, about 3 – 4 minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the heat. Rinse and chop the pickled lemons, and add them to the pan. Scrape everything into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
4. Once cool, add the lamb, egg yolk, flour and mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and mix well with your hands.
5. Preheat the oven to 450°. Using damp hands, shape the mixture into 1-inch balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, until the meatballs are slightly browned on the outside. Serve hot or at room temperature with hummus or tzatziki as a garnish.