Northern Indian Lamb Meatballs

Photo: Antonis Achilleos

Simmered in a silky tomato-based sauce, these delicate lamb meatballs have sweet prune centers. Indian flatbread and pickled carrots are, respectively, mild and mouthpuckering foils for the curry.


  • 2 small garlic cloves

  • 1 piece (1 inch) peeled fresh ginger, sliced

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

  • ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1 can (8 ounces) plain tomato sauce

  • 1 dried bay leaf

  • Coarse salt

  • 12 ounces ground lamb

  • 1 cup fine fresh breadcrumbs

  • cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1 large egg

  • 6 prunes, quartered

  • ½ teaspoon garam masala

  • Pickled vegetables, for serving

  • Indian flatbread, for serving


  1. Process garlic, ginger, and 1 1/2 teaspoons water in a food processor until a chunky paste forms; set aside.

  2. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion; cook, stirring, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Set aside one quarter of onion in a large bowl.

  3. Add 1 tablespoon garlic paste, 1/2 cup water, the turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, and 2 tablespoons coriander to onion in skillet. Cook 3 minutes, stirring. Add tomato sauce, 1 1/2 cups water, and the bay leaf. Season with salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer.

  4. Mix reserved onion, lamb, breadcrumbs, cilantro, egg, 1 teaspoon each garlic paste and salt, and remaining teaspoon coriander and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Divide into 24 pieces; roll into balls. Stuff each meatball with a prune quarter; roll to enclose.

  5. Add meatballs to simmering sauce (add water if meatballs are not covered by sauce). Cook until sauce has thickened, about 40 minutes. Stir in garam masala.

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