I’ve never been a meatballs addict, but being honest those preserved lemon chicken meatballs changed my mind. The idea that this kind of recipes was pretty heavy and full of bad fats was stuck in my mind – while writing those lines, I totally visualise the meatballs that you can find all over Berlin, for which the quality is not always priority number one -, and the fact that I wasn’t really into this dish always made me lazy to make some by myself. I guess adding some pieces of homemade preserved lemon also helped me to get crazy about this recipe, as I’m preserved lemoning everything since the last weeks – can someone actually tell me why I’ve never made some before?! -. I served those preserved lemon chicken meatballs with some rye pita breads and a big dollop of homemade curry yogurt sauce, which definitely brings this dish between Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean influences. Honestly, I’m already considering making some more very soonish!
After almost 4 months, I’ve finally started to run again – aaahh infinite relief !! – and I try to eat enough proteins to restore my body after all those sport sessions. My meat consumption slowly decreased through those 2 last years, and even if I eat some still regularly, I try to balance with vegetal proteins from chickpeas, lentils, or seeds and nuts that are also full in good fats and nutrients. In spite of the fact that I have a balanced diet, I recently noticed that I was still eating way less proteins than carbs – did I ever mentioned that I would live on bread if I could? – or fats, which pushed me to reintroduce meat a bit more regularly in my diet lately. I’m still not a red meat addict though – excepting pastrami, the one and only reason why my butcher see me on a weekly basis -, but I’ve always liked poultry, which is an excellent source of proteins for sportspeople while being low in fat. Thus, those preserved lemon chicken meatballs were a great solution for me as you can cook a big batch of them, then keep them in your fridge for a few days. Usually I briefly re-heat them before to add them in a pita bread, or I eat them cold in a salad.
One of the Middle-Eastern touches of the recipe is the curry yogurt sauce. Before my chicken meatballs & preserved lemons period, I came through a schnitzels and Tonkatsu chicken period – once again, it’s all about chicken – , then through a curry period.
I got the brilliant idea to crave for homemade curry on a hangover Sunday afternoon, indeed. Even if the long list of ingredients scared me first, I managed to reduce the list to only the ones that were on my kitchen staples. Doing your own curry paste is finally super duper practical as you can store it in the fridge for weeks, covered with some oil, and use it as soon as you need it. My homemade curry paste recipe is simplified and doable with “basic” ingredients:
3tbsp coriander seeds • 2tbsp cumin seeds • 1tbsp fennel seeds • 1tsp peppercorns • 1tsp ground turmeric • 1tsp ground cinnamon • 1tsp ground paprika • 1/2 to 1tsp chili • 1tsp salt • 1,5cm to 2cm ginger • 3 garlic cloves • 1tbsp tomato paste • 4tbsp white vinegar
> add seeds and peppercorns in a pan over medium heat, then roast them for 2-3 minutes, just enough to enhance their flavours. Let cool aside.
> add seeds and spices in a mortar and pestle, then grind them until you get a fine powder. Add salt.
> incorporate grated ginger and garlic, vinegar and tomato paste, then mix the whole with a mixer until you get a homogeneous paste.
> pour the curry paste in a jar and cover with some neutral oil – sunflower oil is great – to conserve the paste.
I got inspired by Molly’s pita bread recipe in Molly on the range to make my pitas, but I adapted the recipe to get whole pita breads with more character. I recommend you to briefly toast the rye pitas before to eat them with the preserved lemon chicken meatballs. Even though the recipe is delicious when eaten cold – which actually happens to me pretty regularly, like after each recipe shooting -, the different flavours turn even more comforting when eaten warm!
- 250g spelt flour
- 150g whole rye flour
- 375ml lukewarm water
- 7g yeast
- 3tbsp olive oil
- 1tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2tsp salt
- 300g chicken breast
- 50g feta cheese
- 1/2 red onion
- 3/4 preserved lemon
- 2tbsp olive oil
- A small handful of coriander
- A pinch of fleur de sel (optional)
- 1tsp curry paste for 100g greek yogurt
- Radish pickles
- Feta cheese
- Nigella seeds
- 1. Prepare the rye pitas: mix lukewarm water, sugar and yeast together and let foam for a few minutes. Add salt and oil, then gradually incorporate flours while kneading with a kneading hook for at least 5 minutes. The dough should be elastic and not too sticky at the end. Shape a ball of dough, grease it slightly, put in a salad bowl and cover. Let rest for at least 2 hours.
- 2. Punch the dough to release the air, knead briefly, and divide it in 12 equal balls. Flatten each ball with your hand palms, you should get 5mm to 1cm thick pita breads. Set on a baking tray, cover, and let raise for 30 more minutes.
- 3. Preheat oven to 250C. Put rye pita breads in oven for 5 minutes, until they get chubby and slightly golden. Let cool aside.
- 4. Prepare the preserved lemon chicken meatballs: cut chicken breast in small cubes as well as preserved lemon. Mince coriander and red onion. Put the whole in a blender bowl, and add crumbled feta cheese, a pinch of pepper and fleur de sel (optional). Briefly blend everything until you get a thick minced paste.
- 5. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Take one tablespoon of meatball dough and shape a meatball with your hand palms. Repeat the process with the remaining dough. Add the preserved lemon chicken meatballs to the pan and cook for about 8 minutes on a high heat, while minding to cook well each side. When the meatballs are ready, absorb the surplus of fat with some absorbent paper if you want.
- 6. Set the pita breads: prepare the curry sauce by adding 1tsp of curry paste to each 100g of Greek yogurt. Stir well, and top each pita bread you want to serve with 50g curry yogurt sauce. Add a few radish pickles and 2 or 3 preserved lemon chicken meatballs. Crumble some feta cheese on top, and sprinkle some minced coriander and nigella seeds. Serve preferably warm.