Meatballs in a Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Tomato Sauce

IMGP3062This one's a treasure! It looks like a bit of a faff, but didn't feel so in the doing! I found this in Honey & Co. Food From the Middle East by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich. Another beautiful-looking cookbook with some fascinating recipes. I found it somewhat mesmerising to read the introduction and the first few pages of recipes - personal experience of their life together and early days of launching their own restaurant are weaved around and throughout the recipes to create a narrative that reads almost like fiction. No matter how many of the recipes I get around to trying, I've a feeling I'll read the book cover to cover, which I don't think can be said for many cookbooks!

Back to the recipe itself, this is almost a straight take on it. I've suggested some tweaks later as I always do, but the version presented here is fairly true. It is indeed sweet, sour and spicy. It's also very filling and satisfying. So go go go!


250g minced lamb

250g minced beef

1 large onion

1 bulb of garlic

30g breadcrumbs

2 tsp smoky paprika

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

4tsp harissa paste

1 tsp salt

1 pinch white pepper

1 pinch ground cinnamon

2tbsp coconut oil

5tbsp tomato puree

1/2 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

1tbsp Demerara sugar

2 strips of lemon peel

100ml lemon juice

750ml water

2 large pears

I served this with some couscous - it should be enough for three or four people, but I ate half to myself (and then the leftovers, too, the next day).


1. Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC

2. finely chop the onion, and 2 cloves of the garlic (I cheated and used a food processor, as I hate smelly-garlic-fingers).

3. First the meatballs. Combine the following ingredients together in a bowl: the lamb, beef, onion, chopped garlic, breadcrumbs, chilli flakes, white pepper, ground cinnamon, 1 tsp each of the paprika and harissa paste, 1/2 of the salt.

4. Once fully combined, divide the mixture and shape into 12 meatballs of even size (apparently about 50g each, but I just did this by eye).

5. Pop the meatballs on a lightly oiled baking tray, and bung in the oven for 15 minutes.

6. While the meatballs are baking, chop the rest of the garlic. (Again, I used the food processor).

7. Fry the garlic, with the remaining salt, in the coconut oil over a medium-high heat. I used my trusty-favourite pyrex casserole dish for this. The coconut oil always smells fantastic, but after about 2 minutes of constant stirring, the smell of the garlic will really kick in. It's quite fantastic. After about this time, the garlic should start to stick to the bottom of the pan a little.

8. Add the tomato puree, remaining harrisa & spices, bay leaves and lemon peel. Mix well, and continue stirring for about 5 minutes until everything starts sticking to the bottom of the pan again.

9. Add the lemon juice, and bring to the boil.

10. Add the water, and then bring to the boil again.

11. After the meatballs have had their 15 minutes and the water has boiled (should be about the same time, but whichever takes longer!) remove the meatballs from the oven, and drop them into the sauce (to be honest, I lowered them gently with a ladle!) Add the juices from the meat, too!

12. Bring the sauce back to the boil, then reduce the heat to a minimum, cover, and leave to cook slowly for an hour.

13. After the hour, cut each pear into eight, removing the seeds but leaving the skin on - this will stop it from disintegrating. If I'm honest, I left one stalk on, just so I could take some pretentious looking photos ;-)

14. Remove the lid from the pot, add the pears, and cook on a low heat for a further 15 minutes, for the sauce to thicken slightly.

15. Serve hot.




Tidy Savings

Some interesting results today! I never tot up the final costings til I've listed all the individual items (I've got to make this task vaguely interesting!). When I totalled them up, I didn't get quite what I expected!

With coconut oil included, Tesco came first at £17.46. Even with their very expensive coconut oil price, ASDA came second at £18.02 with Morrison's third at £18.12, when I'd expected them to win. As is so often the case, Sainsburys were last at £21.72.

Taking the coconut oil out of the equation, ASDA stormed it, with Sainsbury's (yes, you read that right) second, Tesco third, and Morrisons coming last due to not selling Lamb mince in 250g packs.

Tidy Tweaks

I discovered when I ate my leftovers, that this is one of those dishes that's even better as a second-day meal! The flavours developed so much more, the meatballs became spicier, and the sauce became sweeter. My only regret was that I'd been too greedy on the first night, and eaten too many of the meatballs... I really wanted more on the second night! So the first teak is: Cook it a day ahead!

My second confession (and therefore second tweak) is that I struggled to get the sauce to thicken up naturally through reduction on the hob. When I reheated this on the second day, I did it in the oven (uncovered) rather than on the hob, and I think it thickened up better, so my advice would be to finish off in the oven for 15-30 mins after you add the pears, rather than the 15 minutes on the hob at stage 14. The photograph at the top of this post is from the second day.

If you're not a fan of lamb you could make it entirely with beef (or vice-versa) or change the meat entirely. I considered trying turkey mince instead for somebody who doesn't like red meat, and also to make it extra healthy, and I think that would work out just fine and dandy, dandy and fine.

The original recipe calls for quinces, which I couldn't get, but kindly suggests pears as an alternative. I'd still like to try it with quinces anyway, as I've never tried them.

The sauce itself, with or without fruit, seems like it could be versatile enough to use in other dishes, so I'd be keen to hear of others' adventures with it!


As I said before, this is more or less a straight take on the original recipe from Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich's Honey & Co. Food From the Middle EastIt really is a beautiful book, and I'd certainly recommend it!