Friday, September 12, 2014

Gluten Free Baked Lamb Meatballs

It's been great being back in the kitchen cooking. I had no idea that finding new homes for all my cooking and baking equipment and supplies would be so challenging. It isn't that there isn't room, nor that I hadn't planned where to put most of it, the problem is that I find that where I thought things should go is not truly where they fit best when actually using the kitchen. That means rethinking a lot of my original plan.

I look pretty crazy sometimes as I open and close drawer after drawer and door after door of the cabinets, looking for a whisk or grater, a citrus juicer or colander. Some things have been moved four or five times since the project started and my memory just isn't what it used to be.

Still, I wouldn't go back to the old kitchen and I love all of the work space. I even used the little table this week while I was preparing pounds of home grown, just picked cherry tomatoes for roasting. Sitting instead of standing to remove all of those little tomato tops before I prepared them for roasting was a treat. After the tomatoes were roasted I decided that as long as the oven was hot, I could make meatballs for dinner.

I had thawed some frozen ground lamb from the freezer and somewhere recently I read a recipe where they used almond meal instead of bread crumbs for making meatballs, so I decided to see what I could come up with using items already in the pantry and fridge. I'm not eating gluten free myself, in general, but it's always nice to have a dish to make that is when I might have guests who need to eat gluten free. This dish is not vegan or vegetarian however, but it is dairy free. Because Sweetie is not a big fan of mint, it is a mint free dish, too. Mostly I would make these again because they were awesomely yummy.

There was just over a pound of ground lamb. The fridge had a wonderful caramelized red onion and fig conserve, some Dijon mustard, an egg yolk left over from another recipe, eggs, fresh basil, and the almond meal. The pantry had salt and pepper. That was all I needed. Because the onion and fig conserve was ready to go and very full flavored, the meatballs went together very quickly.

I scooped them on to a foil lined baking sheet and baked them in a 400 degree F oven for about 18 minutes. I was going for 20 minutes, but they seemed to be done at 18 and I hate overcooked lamb.

A key thing to remember if you decide to make these is to handle the mixture lightly. That keeps 'em tender and juicy. The other thing to know is that they may flatten just a bit, so don't expect tight, round meatballs. Instead look forward to light, juicy, delicious meatballs with some crispy bits where they sat on the pan. The lamb flavor shines and is enhanced by the slightly sweet onions and figs. The mustard and basil are background flavors and I didn't really taste the egg or almond meal at all. You can serve them with some more of the conserve or a bit of tomato sauce, or some yogurt...all three would be good. I served them with a neighbor's gift of fresh from the garden broccoli, which I roasted with garlic, and corn on the cob, and that was wonderful, too.

Elle's Gluten Free Baked No Mint Lamb Meatballs

1 pound ground lamb
1 egg yolk
1 medium or large egg
1/4 cup caramelized red onion and fig conserve (any kind of onion-fig jam or conserve will work)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup almond meal (ground blanched almonds)
2 - 3 tablespoons minced fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper)

In a mixing bowl, using a fork, lightly stir together the above ingredients. Scoop balls about the size of a walnut on to a foil lined baking sheet, leaving about an inch to two inches between balls. (You can make the meatballs any size you like, but the smaller size bakes more quickly than larger ones.)

Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 12-20 minutes. Check after 12 minutes to see how done they are - they should be browned around the edges and spring back a bit when prodded - turn the pan 180 degrees and continue baking until done.

Serve at once and enjoy! Serves 3-4.

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