I love this recipe because of it’s simplicity, ease of putting together, and bold flavor profile. The spiciness of the chili powder contrasting with the rich flavors of the cinnamon, cumin, and garlic literally create a party in your mouth. My signature on these meatballs is the addition of fresh pesto – in my opinion, adding the pesto adds a nuttiness and a little fattiness that keeps the meatballs incredibly moist and divine.
You can serve these alone with some fresh yogurt to dip into (or get fancy and serve it with some tzatziki for an authentic Greek feel!). Make it a meal by stuffing whole-wheat pitas along with some lettuce and tomatoes and there you have your lunch and/or dinner ready! Or you can even throw these delicious meatballs into some tomato sauce and simmer them until ready, and you have a gorgeous lamb meatball in tomato-sauce dish that you can serve over cous cous or rice.
The options are endless, and I see this healthy, oven-roasted lamb kefta as a base recipe that can serve as a one-bite appetizer at a fancy party, or as the filling of a sandwich the next day for lunch (although it is highly unlikely there will be any leftovers of this recipe) 😉
Enjoy! And be sure to share this one with your family and friends, as all good food should be!
Yields: Approximately 12 appetizer-sized meatballs
1 pound ground lamb (can substitute ground chicken, beef or turkey and still get a great result!)
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons of homemade pesto (or any store-bought pesto works great too!)
1 medium white or yellow onion, minced
1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint (or you can use dried mint)
Garnish: fresh mint leaves
Place lamb, cumin, paprika, chili powder (optional) garlic powder, celery seed, seasoned salt, cinnamon pepper, pesto, onion, egg and mint together in a bowl.
Mix evenly using clean hands [I prefer putting on clean, disposable gloves and then mixing. For some reason, mixing ground meat with your hands is the best way to incorporate all the ingredients! No kitchen tool can replicate what your hands can do :)]
Mix gently until evenly combined. Form mixture into 12 meat balls (I use a 1/4 cup measure for each meatball – or you can use an ice cream scoop or melon baller, size of your choice). Round off each meatball in your hands using a circular motion, and place each meatball on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Chill kefta until ready to use (up to 2 hours in refrigerator).
Note: There are two ways to cook the kefta – you can lightly fry them on the stovetop or bake them in the oven.
Method 1: Heat extra-virgin olive oil in sauteé pan. Once the oil is hot, add meatballs (be careful not to overcrowd the pan with too many meatballs (if needed, cook in batches). Turning the meatballs occasionally for even cooking, cook for about 6-8 minutes until desired exterior crispness and interior doneness.
Method 2: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the 12 meatballs on the baking tray you prepared them onto and bake on the center rack of the oven for 15-20 minutes until browned as desired. Serve hot with yogurt, red onions, and cucumber slices! Pair with flatbread, pita bread, or fresh rice for a whole meal! 🙂