Lamb meatballs with fava and minty yoghurt supergolden bakes

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Lamb meatballs with fava and minty yoghurt

Lamb meatballs with fava and yoghurt sauce

Cumin yoghurt sauce

Greek fava dip

I have lived in London for most of my adult life – have lived here longer than in Athens where I grew up. I don't get nostalgic about living in Greece very often, but I do miss the food, especially when it is sunny outside. My mind just wanders to Skiathos and having mezedes at a favourite harbour taverna washed down by ice-cold Amstel...

This dish brings together elements from traditional mezedes and marries them into one platter of yumminess. Fava is normally served as a small dip - here it makes the perfect bed for these garlicky little meatballs to rest on. Share these with friends, preferably on a sunny day, and you too can be transported to Greece for a short spell.

Note: I have used a food processor to make the meatball mix. It can be made by hand - just chop everything really small and knead the mince thoroughly until the ingredients are combined. It's a messy job which is why a food processor is handy.

For the yoghurt sauce
5 heaped tbsp Total 0% yoghurt
1 small garlic clove, minced (optional)
2 tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Juice of half a lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt

  1. Dry fry the cumin seeds in a pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Reserve a few to sprinkle over the finished dish.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a mini chopper and blitz until combined or whisk together by hand until thoroughly combined.
For the fava
250g | 8.8oz yellow dal (yellow split peas can be used as substitute)
3 shallots, peeled and halved
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves
Pinch hot chilli powder
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
100-120ml | about 1/2 cup olive oil plus more to cover
1 tsp salt (or to taste)

  1. Rinse the dal with plenty of cold water, put in a medium saucepan and add plenty of cold water to cover.
  2. Add the shallots, garlic, bay leaves and bring to the boil. If any white scum rises to the surface, skim it with a spoon and discard.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 35-45 minutes, stirring and topping up with water occasionally as needed.
  4. Remove the bay leaves and transfer the fava into a food processor. If there's a lot of cooking liquid, drain it and reserve.
  5. Add half the quantity of olive oil, the lemon juice, salt and chilli powder and pulse until smooth. If the mixture is too dry keep adding the olive oil until you have the right consistency. You can also use some of the reserved cooking liquid instead of olive oil.
  6. If you are storing the fava, cover the surface with a generous amount of olive oil otherwise it will dry out and crack.
For the meatballs
Serves 4-6
500g | 17.6oz lean minced lamb
2 slices of bread soaked in milk 
2 red onions
4 garlic cloves
50g | 1.7oz feta cheese
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp allspice
2 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 tbsp fresh mint
1 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp light olive oil for frying

Handful fresh coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped to serve
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil to drizzle

  1. Put the the onions, garlic, herbs and seasonings in your food processor and pulse until minced.
  2. Squeeze the bread to get rid of most of the milk and add to the food processor together with the feta and lamb. Pulse until a paste forms.
  3. Empty the mince into a bowl and with wet hands start forming small meatballs about the size of a walnut (if your hands are wet it will be easier to form the meatballs and the mixture won't stick to your hands).
  4. Once all the mince is used up, heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan. Fry the meatballs in two batches for about 3 minutes on each side until browned.
  5. Place the fava on a large plate and drizzle some olive oil. Heap the meatballs on top and drizzle with the yoghurt sauce. Scatter the coriander and a handful of the cumin seeds and season with salt and pepper. Serve with plenty of warm pitta bread.
Note: if you want to make the pitta bread follow this recipe for the dough. Once the dough is ready, cut small portions, flatten or roll into a thin disk and dry fry in a pan over medium high heat for a couple of minutes on each side.

Lamb meatballs with fava and yoghurt sauce
Lamb meatballs with fava and yoghurt sauce


  1. Lucy this looks totally delicious. I love Greek food, I've added it to my list to make very soon. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Sarah. It really is delicious and actually very filling. I had forgotten how much I used to like fava - don't think I ever made it before this recipe!

  2. I love lamb, love it... and I never thought of putting mint into yogurt on my own. I've had it out before, but never thought about doing it at home. Looks like a great meal.

    1. Me too - I tend to make the same dishes over and over though so this is me trying to think outside the box!

  3. I'm right the sun, in a Greek taverna, the twinkling sea and tucking into some of your great recipes Lucy!

    1. Bless you Kate - I think I need a huge dose of sunshine today and quite possibly a holiday to go with it!

  4. Gerri Tennant6 May 2014 at 10:11

    Lovely recipe will have to try it soon, thanks.

  5. Lucy, this looks absolutely mouthwatering!