I told you there's another copycat post on the way when writing about Alanna's wonderfully fragrant carrots with African spices. Well, Dagmar posted a recipe for spicy chicken meatballs in early January that caught my eye. It must have been the use of sumac in the meat mixture (apart from the tempting photo, that is). I've had a packet of sumac for the best part of the last year, and apart from sprinkling it on top of rice every now and then I haven't really used it. Now was my chance!
Sumac, for those of you who don't know, is the dried and crushed fruit of the sumac tree (Rhus coriaria L.) that grows wild in Sicily, Western Asia, and parts of Arabia and Central Asia. The dried fruit have a beautiful dark red colour, and taste slightly sweet and sour. Sumac is widely used in Turkish and Iranian cuisine, where it is used to season rice, meat dishes, döner kebabs, and salads. It's always added at the end of cooking process, as heating sumac dulls the flavour. In addition to being used as a seasoning, the red sumac flakes also make a beautiful garnish. It's also an essential ingredient in the za'tar spice mixture popular in Jordan. Think of it as dried lemon juice - you add just a generous squeeze (sorry, a sprinkle) to enliven the dish.
You can read more about sumac here (Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages).
Anyway - back to Dagmar's spicy meatballs. I've added some breadcrumbs to the mixture, as there's a man with a very big appetite in the house and this makes the meatballs go further without really compromising the taste. I've also enlarged the quantities a little to suit the local shopping habits (minced meat is sold in 500 gram packets). Dagmar used chicken mince, but as poultry mince is not really available here and chicken fillets are expensive (for mincing purposes), I used the more economical minced lean beef (first time) and minced beef & pork (when K. requested these again few days later). The recipe worked really well both times. The mixture of spices is wonderful - the warmth of coriander and cumin, the kick of Cayenne and the sharpness of sumac complement each other brilliantly.
When I made Estonian cabbage rolls the other day (seasonings: salt, pepper, a bit of dill), K. asked if I could spice them up a' la these meatballs:) Do try them, they're good!
Dagmar's spicy meatballs, my way
500 grams mince (lean steak mince or a mixture of pork & beef)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
5 Tbsp dried breadcrumbs
1 tsp dried ground sumac
1 tsp cumin seeds, finely crushed
1 tsp coriander seeds, finely crushed
1 tsp ground Cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper
oil for frying
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Shape into 12 large 'sausages' or smaller patties (best done with slightly wet or oily hands to avoid sticking).
Shallow-fry in oil for 10 minutes, turning, until the meatballs are browned all over.
Serve with rice and feta-cucumber 'salad' (above) or with Alanna's wonderful carrots (below).