Seasons’ Eatings: Lamb and Feta Meatballs with Pattypan Squash Pilaf
London, UK – The sandals are packed, the sundresses are gone and our big warm quilt has been put on the bed – no matter how much I try to deny it, autumn is officially here. Rather than dwell on the chilly temperatures and those pesky falling leaves, I am immersing myself in the glorious autumn harvest that has arrived at our greengrocer. We’ve been indulging over the last few weeks in delicious English sweetcorn, leeks and runner beans, but last week it was the beautiful local pattypan squashes that caught my eye. Similar to zucchini in taste and texture, but with scalloped edges and shaped amusingly like a flying saucer, they come in green, yellow and white and are sometimes called granny squash, scallop squash or custard marrow. Thick slices, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper, are delicious cooked quickly on a grill at the end of summer. But these rainy, cooler London days have me thinking that the pattypan squashes should be used in a recipe that is more warm and comforting.
I decided to relay from Stephanie’s Late Summer Vegetable Stew with Jalapeno Cheddar Dumplings by continuing with the one-pot meal theme. One-pot dinners are very popular in our house, mostly because we have a tiny kitchen, and also because there is nothing I like less than doing a lot of dishes! My favourite piece of kitchen equipment is a non-stick ovenproof sauté pan with a lid and I’m pretty sure I use it almost everyday. It’s great for browning meat, for making risotto, and stewing casseroles and curries, and it’s perfect for this one-pot meal of lamb and feta meatballs with pattypan pilaf.
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Our neighbourhood has a lot of Greek and Cypriot influences, and feta cheese has become a staple in our fridge, especially since there are so many ways to use it. For the relay I decided to make some lamb and feta meatballs and flavour them with lots of fresh mint, lemon zest and a little cumin. While lamb can be a bit pricier than beef, we like to get lean minced English lamb from the butcher as a bit of a treat now and then, and these Greek-inspired meatballs are a great way to enjoy it. A quick rice pilaf cooked in the same pan with some cumin, mint and lemon to echo the flavours in the meatballs, and of course the diced green and yellow pattypan squashes, is the perfect accompaniment for this dish. A dollop of cool minty yogurt sauce on the side is the final flourish as we each grab a bowl and dig in. When the sun starts setting earlier and nights get cooler, this meal is easy and delicious and full of Mediterranean flavours that remind us of the warmer days of summer.
Lamb and Feta Meatballs with Pattypan Squash Pilaf
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
Yield: 4 generous servings
For the Lamb & Feta Meatballs
- 500g (about 1lb) minced lamb
- ¾ cup crumbled feta
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
For the Pattypan Squash Pilaf
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 8 pattypan squashes (small zucchinis would substitute well), cut into a small dice
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 ½ cups basmati or long grain rice
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 4 cups lamb or chicken stock (from a stock cube is fine)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
For the Minty Yogurt Sauce
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
- Salt & pepper to taste
- In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs and using your hands, combine the mixture until everything is evenly distributed. It is important to break up any larger bits of feta if you can. Roll the mixture into small meatballs (about 1-2 tbsp each). For this recipe, we made 32. Set meatballs aside on a plate.
- In a large pan (with a lid for later), brown the meatballs until they are fully cooked. This took us about 8 minutes, but it will depend on how big you make them. You do not need to add any oil to the pan as the fat content of lamb is enough to evenly cook the meatballs. When they are cooked, remove to a plate and reserve the pan, but do not remove the fat or brown bits from the pan as these will be used to flavour the pilaf.
- To the same pan, add the chopped onion with a small pinch of salt. Sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes or until onions are soft. Add the diced pattypan squash and chopped garlic, and cook another 5 minutes. You want the squash to be slightly softened.
- Add the uncooked rice and cumin, and stir well so that the rice is well coated in the oil. Pour in the stock – I used a homemade lamb stock I happened to have in my freezer, but any good canned or powdered chicken/vegetable stock would work too. Stir well, bring to a simmer then cover and reduce the heat to low for approximately 15 minutes. The rice is cooked when the liquid has been absorbed, but if you find the rice still a bit crunchy, add a bit more liquid (water would do) and cook covered another 5 minutes.
- While the rice is cooking, combine the yogurt and mint with salt and pepper to taste for the yogurt sauce.
- When the rice is cooked, gently stir the meatballs into the dish to reheat them for a few minutes. Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice and chopped mint. Serve with a big dollop of minty yogurt sauce on the side and enjoy!
Allison Goodings lives in London, England, and is the recipe writer for the Archer, a local community newspaper in East Finchley. She also writes a blog called Ode to an Artichoke featuring simple recipes and random musings on all things delicious. When not feeding her friends and family, planning what to cook for her next meal, selling cheese at a local market or daydreaming about asparagus, she works for the Canadian High Commission.