Here we are on the doorstep of Easter again. And once again, we’re all stuck on our own separate doorsteps. If you live in the States where vaccines flow freely that may no longer be the case. But here in Toronto, Canada our cases are going up and our actions are still heavily restricted. So another Easter weekend with my partner and two cats as my only dinner guests. So naturally glazed ham is off the menu. And as much as I love ham, I’m okay with that. I actually enjoy cooking intimate dinners more than big blow-out feasts. When cooking for small crowds, you can limit the number of dishes and focus on the execution of the food you do make. But having said that these Apricot Lamb Meatballs with Avgolemono Sauce aren’t overly detailed, so you can bank that spare fussing time for dessert.
And yes, I will be posting a companion dessert piece to these meatballs, and yes, it is a bit tricky. But if there was ever a holiday weekend for a low-stakes baking project, it’s this one. Think about it, if you mess it up, who’re you going to embarrass yourself in front of? Your cat? Trust me he already thinks you’re ridiculous. But enough about the recipe that is coming, these Apricot Lamb Meatballs are here today and they are stunning.
Easter is a lamb or ham holiday, in my opinion. I noticed my grocery store stocking up on whole turkeys and I don’t get it? Turkey gets enough glory during Thanksgiving and potentially Christmas and there are so many glorious roasts to be had. Ham was always my preferred Easter dinner but even a modest ham feeds 15. My family was also partial to a leg of lamb, but again this roast is family-size. So what’s the solution? Meatballs.
Now, you may or may not have noticed that I am a fan of meatballs. I even make vegetarian meatballs. And what I love about them is not just their compactness, and versatility, it’s their scalability as well. Admittedly, biting into a meatball is a very different experience than biting into a slab of prime rib. But there is a lot more room for experimentation within a meatball.
Meatballs are more or less a blank canvas. You can impose pretty much any herb, spice, or grain on them and completely change their identity. For these Apricot Lamb Meatballs, I opted for fennel seeds, herbes de Provence, and a whisper of cardamom. As a binder, I selected an egg and a small amount of matzah meal – we also celebrate Passover in this house. Spring is busy for us. And I rounded out their flavor profile with the obligatory garlic and shallots along with dried apricot and fresh mint. If you’re drooling, don’t worry it’s completely normal.
Now, when I think lamb, my mind inevitably wanders over to Greek food. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with Greek neighbors or because I currently live in Toronto’s Greektown, but those flavors are never too far from my mind. Easter in particular seems to inspire my use of them. Orthodox Easter, which is often the following weekend, is a pretty big deal in my neck of the woods. Whatever the reason for the inspiration, adding an avgolemono sauce to the meatballs just made good sense.
While developing this recipe, I made an interesting discovery about avgolemono. Apparently, it’s a whole family of sauces made with lemon and egg. I think most of us are familiar with avgolemono soup, but that’s not the extent of what this egg and lemon mixture can do. Avgolemono is chicken soup with avgolemono sauce stirred in. I learned all of this while googling “what is that amazing sauce that’s served with dolmades?”. My mind was blown. Avgolemono was a sauce all along, I was just too ignorant to know. Aw well! Live and learn, right?
Where there are meatballs, there must be carbs. Or at least that how I prefer to live my life. These Apricot Lamb Meatballs are right at home on a bed of pearl couscous. And because balance is everything, the meal is rounded out by seared sugar snap peas, which are of course fried in lamb fat. That may slightly undo their balancing capabilities from a caloric perspective, but hey, they still have vitamins.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Apricot Lamb Meatballs with Avgolemono Sauce. A delicious small-scale Easter meal, that is low in stress and high in flavor.
Enjoy and Happy Easter!
Apricot Lamb Meatballs with Avgolemono Sauce
- A large cast-iron skillet
- stand mixer or hand mixer
Apricot Lamb Meatballs
- 454g (1lb) ground lamb
- 2 shallots diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ⅓ cup dried apricot diced
- ⅓ cup breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup fresh mint finely chopped
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp herbes de Provence
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 300g (10.5oz) uncooked Isaerli Couscous
- 225g (8oz) sugar snap peas
- additional mint leaves for sprinkling
- microgreens for sprinkling
- lemon wedges for serving
- 2 large eggs seperated
- 2 lemons
- 1 cup low-sodium beef stock
- ½ tsp salt
- Preheat the oven in 400°F
- Place the lamb, shallots, garlic, apricot, breadcrumbs, mint, and egg in a large bowl. Add the herbes de Provence, fennel seeds, and salt. With a clean hand, mix until all the ingredients are well-integrated. Using a tablespoon as a guide, form the lamb mixture into meatballs. Set aside.
- Pour the olive oil into a large cast-iron skillet and place over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the meatballs in an even layer. Brown the meatballs on all sides before transferring the skillet to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the meatballs once halfway through.
- While the meatballs are in the oven, make the Avgolemono Sauce. Place the egg yolks in a small saucepan and the whites in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice to yolks and whisk to combine – set aside.
- Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowly whisk in the yolk mixture, followed by the stock and the salt. The mixture will look seperated but that's okay. Make sure your stock is not hot as that will curdle the eggs.
- Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and place over low heat. Gently cook the sauce, whisking occasionally until the sauce thickens and becomes uniform. About 10 minutes. Don't let the sauce come to a simmer or a boil at any point. This will cook the eggs.
- While you're babysitting the sauce, place a large pot of water over high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, add the couscous and cook until tender. Drain and rinse the couscous and set aside until ready to serve.
- When the meatballs are done, take the skillet out of the oven. Remove the meatballs place the skillet over medium heat. Add the sugar snap peas and sauté until tender and slightly blistered – about 3-5 minutes. Season with a sprinkle of salt and set aside.
- When ready to serve, pour the couscous into a large serving platter. Arrange the meatballs on top and add the sugar snap peas. Drizzle the peas and meatballs with the avgolemono sauce and garnish with mint leaves, microgreens, and lemon wedges. Serve immediately.