Have you heard the one about the Italian guy who walks into an Indian restaurant and says “Give me an order of meatballs like Grandma used to make, in a spicy-sweet coconut milk curry sauce.”? Yeah, me neither. But if there was a joke like that floating around out there somewhere, the punchline would be about tonight’s dish. It combines that quintessential Italian staple, the meatball, with a rich Indian curry sauce that explodes with fresh Asian flavors.
This is my adaptation of a Gordon Ramsay video recipe for “Meatballs in Fragrant Coconut Broth.” I say adaptation because the video has no measurements in it, so the viewer is left to figure out that part on his own – unless, of course, he were to purchase the cookbook written to accompany the video series (see the link below). So, without further ado, here is my best stab at recreating Ramsay’s totally delicious looking dish – which, as it turned out, tasted pretty awesome for us. To make four servings you will need:
For the meatballs:
- ½ large onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- ½ tsp. chili flakes
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup whole milk
For the sauce:
- 1 tsp. coriander seeds
- 4-5 green cardamom pods, cracked
- ½ tsp. turmeric powder
- ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 dry arbol chilis
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 can (13.5 oz.) coconut milk
- 1 stalk lemon grass, cut into 4” lengths
- 2 oz. thinly sliced ginger
- Zest of 1 lime
- Juice of ½ lime
- Cooked basmati rice
In a deep skillet, heat 2 tbsp. of the olive oil over medium flame and sweat the onions and garlic. When they are nearly done, toss in the chili flakes and stir through, cook one more minute, then remove the mixture from the heat and set it aside. While the onions are cooking, in a mixing bowl season the beef with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, mix the bread crumbs and milk to form a paste, then stir it into the beef along with the cooked onion mixture. Work all of this thoroughly with your fingers until evenly mixed, then start shaping meatballs about the size of a golf ball. You should get an even dozen from this amount of mixture.
Now it’s time to cook up the meatballs. Wipe the skillet free of any excess onion mixture, then heat the other 2 tbsp. of oil, making sure to coat the entire bottom of the pan. Arrange the meatballs around the outer edge of the skillet, leaving the center free to make the sauce. Turn the meatballs as needed until browned on all sides.
When the meatballs are nearly done cooking, in the center of the skillet add the coriander seeds and cardamom pods, followed by the turmeric, cinnamon and chilis. Pour in the chicken stock, then the coconut milk. Gently rap the lemon grass stalks with the back of your chef’s knife so they release their aroma, then lay them into the sauce along with the ginger slices. Bring the sauce to a boil, then back it down to a simmer. After 8-10 minutes the meatballs should be finished. Turn off the heat. Zest the lime onto the meatballs, then squeeze the juice of half the lime into the sauce, and give it a quick stir.
With that, you’re ready to serve. Ladle a bit of the broth into a bowl with a bit of cooked basmati rice, arrange a few of the meatballs on top, and you’re ready to enjoy an authentic Inditalian feast. To complicate matters even more, I made a side of sautéed courgettes – which is a fancy French word for zucchini. Talk about cultural confusion. Anyway, we munched it all right down with a big happy grin on our faces, and look forward to trying it again sometime soon. Until next time: Eat well, my friends!