Lamb Meatballs with Cranberries, Herbs, and Yogurt

from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi

I’m in a long distance relationship right now. Which sucks a whole bunch.

After around 7 weeks of not seeing each other, my boyfriend Ben came to Boston for a few days Thanksgiving week. I visited him in LA previously, but I couldn’t cook for him since he was staying on campus, where stoves are scarce and cooking supplies even more so. I cooked for him once before in the spring, when I wasn’t really into cooking. So this visit was the first time I could properly cook for him, with my new found techniques and ‘kitchen acumen’.

I sat him down in front of my many cookbooks and asked him to pick a recipe to make that night. We settled for the Lamb Meatballs with Barberries recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. We also made a stuffed mushroom, however, that wasn’t as successful so I’m not going to blog about it.

Ben was very excited to see me cook, because it’s all I talk about- and I think I surprised him a little. I don’t know about other people, but when I imagine someone doing something they’re passionate about, I picture the person quietly focused, dignified and somewhat elegant. I’m not like that in the kitchen. I’m a little frantic, kind of unorganized (though I’m getting better), and chaotic. Cooking is satisfyingly…violent and frenzied, which I love.

This was my first attempt at making meatballs, and I definitely learned a thing or two. First of all: READ THE RECIPE- I kept forgetting ingredients and giving Ben the wrong instructions. I tend to delve, not think- I’m working on it.

Another thing I’ve learned is that meatballs, especially ones made without flour tend to fall apart rather easily. I tried making larger meatballs since the recipe made so many, and they pretty much fell apart as soon as they hit the pan. Next batch I made smaller meatballs which held together just fine.


  • 1.5 pounds of lamb
  • 6.5 tablespoons of oil (I used grapeseed, you can use any oil with a high smoking point though)
  • ½ cup of Parsley
  • 2 Medium Onions, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¾ teaspoon of allspice
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup of dried cranberries*
  • 1 egg
  • 3-4 Shallots
  • 1 cup of White wine
  • 2 cups of Chicken Stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • 5 oz/150g Dried figs
  • 1 cup of Plain yogurt
  • 3 tbsp mixed mint, coriander, dill, tarragon- torn roughly
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large bowl, mix together the lamb, onions, parsley, garlic, allspice, cinnamon, dried cranberries, egg, 1 tsp of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Mix it around and then roll the mixture into small balls.
  2. Heat 1/3 of the oil in a large heavy pot that has a tight fitting lid. Put the meatballs in, a few at a time. You have to pay attention to them, so I recommend not cramming your pot full of meatballs. Cook the meatballs over medium heat, turning them over every couple of minutes until they’re a nice brown color all over.
  3. Wipe the pot clean, add the remaining oil, and then add the shallots. Cook them over medium heat for about 10 minutes, paying close attention to them and stirring frequently until they turn golden brown.
  4. Add the wine (careful here, this will smoke a lil), let it bubble for a minute or two.
  5. Add the chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme, sugar, salt and then pepper.
  6. Add in the figs and the meatballs. The meatballs should mostly be covered with liquid.
  7. Bring to a boil, then cover the pot with a lid. Reduce the heat to low to let the mixture simmer. Do this for about 30 minutes.
  8. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and let simmer for another hour until the sauce has reduced a bit and intensified in flavor.

*Note: You can add the yogurt and herbs to the final product, but I actually preferred it without the yogurt. I added some rice to the recipe- I loved the sauce so much I wanted it to drench it with something and I figured rice was the perfect thing