I'm always a bit wary of celebrity chef cookbooks. The chefs who have television shows seem to be more interested in promoting themselves than their food, and the chefs who have restaurants often have recipes that seem to require years of cooking school to execute. Happily, I have found two cookbooks this year that don't fit that mold. The first is "Jerusalem" by Yotem Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, and the second is "A Girl and Her Pig" by April Bloomfield. There are a few complicated recipes in "A Girl and Her Pig," to be sure, but there are many that can be made without a lot of effort.

Bloomfield has been greatly influenced by Marcella Hazan, as have I. That means Italian cooking with big, rich flavors and straight up delivery, rather than the "plate as work of art" kind of chef whose recipes are largely impossible to replicate in a home kitchen. But where Hazan's cooking is completely Italian, Bloomfield allows other factors, such as her own English background, and interest in other cuisines to add a bit of difference to her recipes.

For instance, this recipe I made for lamb meatballs could just as easily have been found in the Jerusalem cookbook. The cumin and coriander in the sauce gives it a bit of a twist. I made this exactly as the recipe called for, except for the fact that I didn't have any yogurt. I made this on the day of the big blizzard, so I opted to eat it without benefit of yogurt, but I feel like it would have added a nice element. I did add the eggs, but honestly, I would have been fine without them.

Of course, Bloomfield grinds her own lamb, and if you have a meat grinder and want to do that, go right ahead. Or, you can do what I did and go to the butcher and buy ground lamb. She also grinds her own spices, which you may do as well, but I have used ground spices in the ingredient list. Like many chefs, Bloomfield has a free hand with salt. I adore salty foods, but I actually found the meatballs a bit too salty, and I think next time I would cut the salt in half.

Prep time: Prep time: 30 minutes 

Total time: 90 minutes 

Yield: 4 servings

Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt, Eggs, and Mint


  • 2 1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 cups fine bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 spicy long red chilies, pierced with a sharp knife
  • 1 28-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes, drained, trimmed, and squished with your hands
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
  • 4 large eggs
  • Small handful mint leaves
  • Small handful small, delicate cilantro sprigs
  • Splash extra virgin olive oil
Cooking directions
  1. Toss the lamb well with the salt, then add the bread crumbs and toss again. Take a bit of the mixture in your hand, give it a few firm but still rather gently squeezes, and roll it in a ball (you're shooting for each one to be a little bigger than a golf ball). The outside of the each ball should be smooth, with no big cracks or crags. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
  2. Add the oil to a 8 or 9 quart Dutch oven with a lid, set the pan over high heat, and swirl the oil in the pan. When it just begins to smoke, cook the meatballs in batches to avoid crowding, turning them occasionally with tongs, so they develop a beautiful, shiny, deep-brown crust on all sides. If you see any black spots, turn your heat down a little. Keep at it until you are happy with the colour of each one, transferring them to a plate when they finish browning. It'll take 12 to 15 minutes per batch. Drain half the fat remaining in the pot.
  3. Lower the heat to medium-high, add the onion, garlic and salt, and cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft and lightly browned and the garlic smells toasty and is a deep goldenn brown, about 5 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin and chilies and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Turn the heat to low, add the tomatoes and simmer gently until the tomatoes begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, about 10 minutes. 
  4. Add 4 cups of water and raise the heat to bring the sauce to a boil, then turn it down to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes more. Transfer 2 cups of the sauce to the blender, give it a whiz until it's smooth and airy, and stir it back into the sauce in the pot, or use an immersion blender.
  5. Return the meatballs and their juices to the pot and stir gently to coat them in the sauce. Cover the pot, tweak the heat if need be to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes to let the flavors come together.
  6. Turn the heat to low, add blobs of the yogurt, and crack the eggs here and there into the sauce. Tear and sprinkle in the mint leaves and cilantro, and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Cover the pot and turn the heat to medium. Cook until the egg whites have just set, 10 to 15 minutes.

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