spiced meatballs with feta and pomegranate couscous

there are some dishes which you eat every last scrap of, scrape the bowl for leftovers while silently wishing that you hadn’t had to share the dish (in this case with 8 friends!) and mentally flick through your diary to work out when you can cook it again. this spiced meatballs with feta and pomegranate couscous was one such dish.

the meatballs were flavoured with toasted cumin and coriander plus coriander stems (i’m really enjoying using the stems in different ways to the leaves and the flavour subtleties which result), lemon, garlic and harissa. they were roasted on top of a gently spiced tomato sauce (similar flavours to the meatballs) and topped with a layer of crumbled feta which was scattered with mint and parsley before serving.

the couscous was scented with lemon, parsley, mint and chilli. i then added the seeds of a pomegranate and everything came together wonderfully – the complex layers of flavours in the meatballs and sauce, melting cheese contrasting with the light, zingy couscous.i served this with a green salad which had a simple lemon, olive oil and garlic dressing.

i'm sharing this dish with michelle of what's cooking who is hosting this month's healthy family dinners monthly mingle.

spiced meatballs with feta and pomegranate couscous (serves 8-10)

for the tomato sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

½ a teaspoon of chilli flakes

c1kg chopped tinned tomatoes

150ml dry white wine

salt & freshly ground black pepper

for the meatballs

50g fresh breadcrumbs

100ml milk

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon harissa paste

2 tablespoons coriander stems, finely chopped

grated zest of 1 lemon

500g beef mince

500g pork mince

salt & freshly ground black pepper

150g feta, crumbled into smallish pieces

a handful of mint, roughly chopped

a handful of parsley, roughly chopped

for the couscous

400g couscous*

800ml vegetable stock

the grated zest and juice of a lemon

2 shallots, finely diced

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

a handful of mint, roughly chopped

a handful of parsley, roughly chopped

seeds from 1 pomegranate

to make the sauce, heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion until it softens. add the garlic, cumin and chilli flakes and cook for another few minutes. add the chopped tomatoes, white wine and seasoning and simmer until the sauce thickens.

to make the meatballs, mix the breadcrumbs with milk and set aside. fry the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry pan, moving them around in the pan regularly, until you are able to smell them. remove from the heat and grind the spices to a powder.heat the oil and, over a gentle heat, fry the onion and garlic until the onion softens.

in a large bowl, mix the cooked onion/garlic with the breadcrumbs, spices, harissa, coriander stem andlemon zest. add the mince, season and mix well. shape the mince into meatballs – i made c30 golf-sized balls. refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (you can make this mix the day before if you really want the flavours to meld). 

when you are ready to cook the meatballs, heat the oven to 200c.

meanwhile, heat a little oil in a non-stick pan and brown the meatballs on all sides for about 5 minutes (alternatively you can grill them). put the tomato sauce into a large baking dish (it should form a layer which is c1cm thick) and place the meatballs on top and sprinkle with the feta cheese. cover loosely with foil and bake for 15 minutes. remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes.

while the meatballs are cooking, make your couscous*, mixing the heated stock with the couscous, lemon, shallots and chilli. cover with clingfilm and set aside. when the couscous is ready, fluff it up with a fork and add the herbs and pomegranate. serve with the meatballs (i sprinkled mine with herbs to make them look prettier) and salad.

* i use instant couscous. the instructions above are adapted from the packet instructions and you may need to adapt them if you use a different type of couscous.