On a few odd occasions, I find I have to rustle up a quick lunch or dinner just for myself. Now here’s a confession – I do not enjoy cooking for myself as much as I do for others. So, often a stretch of imagination is necessary to avoid me from falling for the usual take away suspects! I thought I’d share some of my recent inventions when it comes to easy and quick meals. These can be modified to leave out anything you don’t have right at the moment in the kitchen and to include any other odd bits and pieces of vegetables, meat, etc that maybe lying around. It’s just a way of me trying to inspire you to open that refrigerator door and use anything in there that catches your fancy.
The first dish in this series is for a warming plate of rice made with harissa and tomato paste along with scrumptious meatballs topped off with creamy yoghurt and tart sumac.
Here’s the list of steps I took to put this meal together. Remember, if you don’t have any of the ingredients on hand, improvise and surprise yourself!
1. Make the mixture for the meatballs by mixing together half a pound of minced lamb with one tablespoon olive oil, half a teaspoon each of dried oregano, ground cumin, ground coriander, zaatar, paprika and dried thyme. Form small balls (you’ll get around 7-8 medium meatballs), and put them away in the refrigerator to firm up while you do the rest of the prep.
2. Finely mince half a red onion. In a heavy bottomed saucepan or casserole dish, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute the onion for a couple of minutes. Add half a teaspoon each of harissa paste and concentrated tomato paste to the pan. Season with salt. Add half a cup of long grain or basmati rice and toss it around until all the grains are coated in the tomato mixture. Pour in a cup of water (boil in an electric kettle if you have one to speed up the cooking process). Bring it to the boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover the pan tightly with its lid. Cook for about 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed the rice is tender. Turn off the heat, let it sit without disturbing for about five minutes. Then remove lid and fluff the cooked rice with a fork or spoon.
3. While the rice is cooking, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a medium or large frying pan over medium high heat. Once hot, add the meatballs and cook them gently until well browned and cooked through. Do this in batches if necessary.
4. Serve the dish – Place some of the rice in a deep soup or pasta plate. Arrange 3-4 meatballs in the center. Top it with dollops of thick plain yoghurt. If you have some sumac handy, sprinkle a pinch over the yoghurt for a great contrast in color and taste. Otherwise, fresh cilantro/coriander leaves can also be used for garnish.
Pour yourself a glass of good wine and enjoy! This dish makes enough to feed two not very hungry people or just one with leftovers to enjoy a second time round.