Thursday, October 22, 2015

Lamb Kefta Meatballs in Tahini Gravy

If you are looking for a rich, savory, satisfying meal, I have one for you today. Spiced lamb meatballs, browned up in a skillet, and then served with a simple tahini and lemon gravy, has all of the classic flavors of the Levant, and all of the comfort of a traditional meatball. Just as in other cuisines, the same seasoned ground meats can become meatloaf or meatballs, kefta can become a kefta meatloaf, when spread flat in a pan to bake, or kefta kebabs, when formed into ovals and grilling over charcoal, or meatballs. In Palestine, butchers often grind orders of beef and lamb together, to save the cooks one step. That's because there is something magical about combining a little lamb with your beef. The flavor deepens, becomes richer and a little more savory. These little lamb meatballs, stuffed with parsley, onion, allspice and cinnamon, will perfume the entire neighborhood as you are frying them up, so be careful: if your neighbor smells it, she will knock on your door!  You might want to have some toothpicks handy!

Lamb for Beginners

Lamb is the darling protein of Arabs.  Sheep still roam the rocky hills of all throughout Palestine, with Palestinian shepherds herding them between olives groves, towns, checkpoints. In the West, though, lamb is less familiar. While you may find it on a menu, or as a pricey appetizer at a swanky event, it is rarely eaten at home. Lamb consumption in the United States has dropped to less than one pound per person per year. It's a shame.

That's why dishes like this  (and this and this) can help ease you into lamb-cooking comfort. Ground lamb is a no-fear entrance to lamb; it behaves very much like any other ground meat. If straight lamb has too strong a flavor for you, mix lamb and beef together to create a more palatable mix. This dish can be made with all beef, or all lamb, but I think a mix actually creates a nice balance of flavor.

To Sauce or Not to Sauce

Today, I paired these meatballs with a classic lemon-tahini gravy, but you can serve these meatballs with the gravy on the side, for dipping, or omit the gravy all together. We adore this thick and creamy sauce, sopping up leftovers with bread or spooning it all over rice, sometimes folding the meatballs into an Arabic pita bread, to make a Palestinian meatball sandwich. The sauce is almost a meal by itself, satisfying and filling, and brimming with nutrients.  No matter how you decide to enjoy it, if you serve the meatballs with this gravy, you will be full for many hours to come!  


Kefta Meatballs

Yield:  24 meatballs

1 lb pastured lamb
1 lb pastured ground beef
1/3 cup parsley, finely minced
1/3 cup onion, finely minced
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tsp ground allspice

Ghee or oil, for frying

(1) Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix thoroughly with clean hands.

(2) Swirl a little oil in a wide skillet, and preheat to medium heat.  Form meat mixture into small meatballs, about 1 1/2 inch balls, and drop them into the hot skillet.   Fry up meatballs in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Wait until the meat has caramelized on one side before turning. Each batch should take about 10 minutes to cook through, depending on the size of the meatballs.  Remove meatballs to a platter, reserve.

Tahini Gravy

Yield: 2 1/2 cups of gravy

3/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/4 cup tahini
1 1/4 cup water
2 tsp salt

(1) In a blender or a deep bowl, combine all ingredients.  Blend for two minutes, or beat with a whisk until the ingredients are well incorporated and the sauce lightens from brownish to a pale tan.

(2) Pour sauce into a sauce pan, and heat over medium low heat until just simmering, then simmer on low heat for ten minutes, stirring frequently.  The sauce will thicken a little, and thicken even more upon cooling.  Be sure to stir frequently to keep the sauce from sticking.  If it becomes to lumpy, you can always blend or beat the sauce again before serving.  If it thickens too much, stir in a little water.



  1. Wonderful recipe and post!! :) loved reading this one!!!


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