Beef & Lamb Meatballs with Tahini Sauce

close up balls 2

Santa-like jolliness is coursing through my veins like the buzz off a good mulled wine. Visions of cheese platters and frosted snowmen cookies prance around my brain and cloud my vision as I deal with every day “important” things like work, cat food (homemade, of course– what am I, a monster??), and health insurance (l’chaim, ObamaCare). Pandora has crafted the perfectly festive musical accompaniments, Deb is motivating me to be craftier, and ugly reindeer sweaters…well, they’re just a fact of life because there isn’t a fire vast enough to burn every last one.

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Lamb Pasties

pies - 27

There’s nothing like ending a wonderful Easter weekend with pounds and pounds of leftover lamb and some Miley Cyrus blaring out of your sub-woofer. The pastry gods decided to give me a real hankering for some flaky, savory goodness; hence, the Lamb Pasty:

I’m not sure where the hankering for Miley came from, but I am not one to deny myself guilty pleasures every now and again.


Pasties are an amazing treat and it saddens me that it is not more widely available in the good ole US of A. I know we broke away from the Mother country and declared our freedom, blah blah blah; but why did we have to leave pasties behind? They combine everything Americans love: meat, gravy, dough, and miniscule amounts of vegetables.

I must say that I was shocked at how well these turned out. Pie dough is tricky, even if it is simply fat mixed with flour, and I was worried it would be some goopy mass of ick. No ick, no goop, just yum.

I took the pie dough recipe from (of course) Cook’s Illustrated, but the filling is my own creation. The whole process took about 2 hours to prepare and 20-25min to bake, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time. It yielded 6 pasties and lots of happiness.

Pie dough (Cook’s Illustrated):
2.5 cups flour
1 t salt
2 T sugar (I halved this, since we are dealing with savory)
1/2 c shortening, cold
1.5 sticks butter, cold and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
6-8 T cold water

Don’t think the temperatures are unimportant; they can make or break your dough! Cook’s Illustrated also has a pie dough recipe that includes vodka (strange, but it’s supposed to be amazing!) and is more recent than the above one I chose, which probably indicates a slightly better product. I chose the one I had made before, for the sake of working with a familiar recipe.

Put the flour, salt, and sugar in your Cusinart and pulse until mixed.

Add the shortening and let the motor run for about 10 seconds, until it looks like moist sand.

Scatter the butter:

And make 10-15 second-long pulses, until your mixture looks like this:

Your goal is to have all the butter chunks smaller than peas.

Turn the mixture into a bowl and add 6 T of the ice cold water.

Mix and press the dough with a spatula, adding more water ONLY if necessary. The less water you have to add, the better for the dough. Once you have a cohesive mass with only a few bits hanging off, divide the dough in two.

Squash the balls of dough into discs, wrap in plastic, and pop in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile, you can start on your filling! Yay!
You will need:
2 cups chopped, leftover meat; obviously, I used Lamb
1/2 c pancetta or bacon, cubed
1/2 onion
1 leek, white/light green part only
2 garlic cloves
1/2 c chopped carrots
2 T butter
1 heaping T flour
1 c chicken stock
1/3 c cream
Salt and Pepper

Chop the meat into small cubes, trimming any fat that might be sticking around. Americans may wear their excess poundage with pride, but let’s avoid packing on any extra when we can.

I used about half of a leftover roast, which yielded ~2 cups. Set aside.

Put the pancetta in a hot skillet and cook until almost crisp over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, chop your onion:

Your leek:

…don’t forget to rinse it!

And mince the garlic:

When the pancetta has rendered a good amount of fat and is starting to crisp, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and set it in a bowl with some paper towel to drain, but leave the fat in the pan:

Add the chopped veggies to the pan and saute for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat, until soft.

Add your chopped carrots and cook for a couple more minutes:

The carrots should start to sweat like they are being interrogated about their whereabouts on the night of Watergate. Once they start to glisten, push the whole mixture to one side of the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the butter to the empty side:

Once it has melted, sprinkle the flour over and mix it into a roux:

You will have a thick paste. Mix it into the veggies and let it cook for a minute or two, to ensure that the floury taste goes away. Add your stock (mine was homemade, which I am very proud of), salt, pepper, and cream:

Let it come to a gentle simmer and thicket a tad. Now you can toss in the pancetta and lamb:

It will look creamy and weird, but oh so delicious. Go ahead…take a bite…we know you want to…

Let this mixture cool to almost room temperature. If it is too warm it will melt the butter in the dough, which is far from ideal.

If an hour has elapsed for your pie dough, you can remove one of the discs and start working on forming your individual pasties.

Sprinkle your work surface liberally with flour.

Cut the disc into thirds and form each one into an 8 inch circle, about 1/4 inch thick.

The best way to do this is smush the bit of dough you’re working on into a ball. Flatten it with your right hand/fingertips while constantly turning and “rounding” the dough with your left hand. This may take practice/magic. I find that a rolling pin doesn’t always yield the best shape, which is important for this recipe. If you find the dough very dry and crumbly, just dip your fingers in water.

Spoon the lamb mixture onto one side of the dough, leaving 1/2 inch along the edge. You will use about 1/2 c mixture for each round.

If you’re really on top of your game, you can beat an egg white with a bit of water and brush this onto the edge to help seal the dough together.

Fold the round over so you have a semi circle shape and use a fork to press the seam together:

If you are baking them right away you can brush the top with more egg white. Cutting a slit in the top is also a good idea, to help release steam during baking.

I baked one in a 425 degree oven for 20ish minutes and froze the rest, uncooked. I plan to bake those at 400 for a bit longer, but 375 might be better! It came out a little brown on the edges, so reducing the temp a bit is a good idea.

Super delicious, people. The crust was flaky and scrumptious, perfectly wrapping the filling in a blanket of awesomeness. The lamb and veggies were well cooked and melded together perfectly. Some good alterations to this:
Chicken, tarragon, yams, and a teaspoon of mustard
Ground beef, cumin, and potatoes
Cubes of beef, thyme, and turnips

The possibilities are endless! Get crafty and get eatin’!

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