Meatballs in pomegranate sauce (fesinjan kyufta)

On weekends, I like trying new, a little more time-consuming recipes… there is definitely no shortage of those! This weekend, while perusing my Please to the Table cookbook, the Azerbaijani (I think) meatballs in pomegranate sauce recipe jumped out at me. Hey, pomegranates are seasonal right? I have to say this concept of seasonality is relatively new to me. According to my memory, when I was growing up we had a few dozen recipes on rotation and that was it. An occasional fruit would appear in the summer but we didn’t really cook with it. The good news is that these days I can recreate the recipes any time and they will feel right. The bad news, now that I’m really into eating locally and seasonally (as much as possible), I want my food to reflect that. Even “Russian” food.

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This is not one of the recipes I grew up eating. It’s a new recipe I’m testing out as part of my quest to learn more about the culture through food. The meatballs weren’t even very time consuming (the accompanying rice was which I deemed not “worth it” so I won’t share the recipe but they were very flavorful (due to a combo of beef and lamb – strong meaty flavors) and the pomegranate sauce added a lovely balance of sweetness. Don’t forget the fresh pomegranate seeds – they burst in your mouth and really brighten this dish!

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

Meatballs:

  • 3/4lb ground beef
  • 1/3 ground lamb
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 2t fresh finely chopped mint
  • 1/4t ground allspice
  • 1/4t hot paprika
  • 1/4t cayenne (optional, my paprika wasn’t hot so I added cayenne for an extra kick)
  • 1/4t salt
  • 1/8t pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 1T butter
  • 1T olive oil

Pomegranate sauce:

  • 1/3 cup beef broth
  • 1.5 cups pomegranate juice
  • 2/3 cup pomegranate seeds (divided)

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My lamb wasn’t ground, so I chopped my own. 10 pulses in the food processor did the trick Smile

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1. Mix all the ingredients, except for flour, butter and oil. Your hands are your best tool here.

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2. Refrigerate for 20 minutes

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3. Roll meat mixture into meatballs. I made mine a little larger than golf balls and got 15.

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4. Roll meatballs in flour

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5. Melt butter and oil over medium heat; fry meatballs for about 15 minutes – until browned and cooked through.

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Remove to a plate and set aside (leave oil and meat juices in the pan. Time for the sauce!

7. Turn the heat to high. Pour pomegranate juice and beef broth* into the pan (where meatballs were previously cooking). *I never keep beef broth on hand so I used beef bouillon with hot water.

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Let the sauce boil for 5 minutes.

8. Add the meatballs and 1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds back to the pan; simmer on low for 15 minutes, turning occasionally (your meatballs will become a little purple – super fun! Smile )

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9. Serve over rice and garnish with the remaining pomegranate seeds. Enjoy!! Plate

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Do you eat seasonally? What kind of foods or ingredients do you crave in December?

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