Over Christmas I enjoyed a twilight Persian feast with lamb carefully spiced and flavoured, skewered and then barbecued outside, in spite of wintery weather conditions. The lamb was served with golden-yellow rice crowned with beads of a dark, sumptuous fruit like glistening black jewels. The skewers were accompanied with bowls of creamy, fresh tzatziki and an intensely garlicy aubergine dip.
I thought of that dish during the week when I bought 500g of minced beef, and no desire to make some kind of bastardised chilli con carne. I simply did not have the appetite for anything rich and tomato-based.
On my way home from work, I braved the small Sainsbury’s near Brixton station, at rush hour: an inevitable last days of Rome experience. I toyed with buying readymade tzatziki but opted instead to make my own. The Greek yoghurt could be added to some type of curry the following week, I considered.
This dish would be much better in summertime with lamb mince and eaten in bowls under the sun.
You will need:
500g of minced beef (lamb if you are prepared unlike I) [500g makes about 12-14 meatballs, so if cooking for one, you will get more than one dinner out of this]
Enough basmati rice for your needs (I find a 50g serving to be sufficient)
1 egg, beaten
A good sprinkling of Tikka spice mix (for rice and meatballs)
A tsp of chilli flakes
About a tbsp of butter
Stalks and leaves of coriander, chopped (mint of course would be excellent)
A few tbsps of Greek yoghurt
A squeeze of lemon
Cucumber slices, chopped up very finely
[A little bit of garlic if so inclined for the tzatziki – personally I omit]
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper
Begin by mashing the mince in large bowl with a fork. Add the Tikka spice, chilli flakes, chopped coriander, salt and pepper and the egg. Shape into balls and fry gently in a large pan. The meatballs may take around 20 minutes to be cooked through thoroughly.
For the rice: cook for ten-eleven minutes. Once cooked and strained, add a generous chunk of butter—it should be enough so that rice is lightly yellowed and buttery. Add a sprinkling of Tikka and some pepper. Finish with coriander.
For the tzatziki: Mix a few tablespoons of Greek yoghurt with a good squeeze of lemon, coriander, salt and pepper, and finely chopped cucumber.