How to make sumac lamb meatballs (Comfort and Spice)

I have finally bought a copy of Comfort and Spice, the cook book by Niamh Shields who writes the brilliant food blog Eat Like a Girl.  I was a bit late off the mark with all my travelling in India and Nepal and moving continents I had been unable to get the book but I finally tracked it down at Dymocks in Melbourne.

Sumac lamb meatballs from Comfort and Spice

I’m so proud of Niamh for writing this book.  It is true to her blog with the same gutsy, rich recipes and with Niamh’s sense of humour shining through.  I have been lucky enough to become friends with Niamh while living in London and we even shared a trip to Canada together foraging for fiddleheads just after she had finished writing the book.  So it seems strange to be holding a copy in my hands at the other side of the world, but also very exciting.

The book

It’s a great book with recipes referencing Niamh’s Irish roots and her world travels.  My favourite part of Comfort and Spice is the section called “Eight Great Big Dinners… and what to do with the leftovers”.  This is genius as it includes recipes for various roasts and then all different alternative meals that can be made using what doesn’t get eaten.  However when it came to testing out the book I was a bit time poor and only had to cook for me and MTV so I ignored Niamh’s roast pork recipe (however tempting it looked) and tried out the sumac lamb meatballs with couscous salad.

Inside the book

I doubled the quantities in the recipe (which is written to serve two) as you can never have too many meatballs.  It turns out that the leftover meatballs went brilliantly with pasta the next day.  True to the spirit of Comfort and Spice I did use my leftovers.

The meatballs feature sumac, a Middle Eastern spice that I haven’t really cooked with before but it’s rich colour and punchy taste added some kick to the meatballs.  Just like the recipes on Niamh’s blog the meatball recipe was no nonsense, straight forward and delicious.  I know for a fact that all the recipes in Comfort and Spice were tested three times so I wasn’t surprised that the recipe worked perfectly.  I’m looking forward to cooking more from Comfort and Spice but I won’t be writing about the recipes here as you really all have to buy the book.  Even if, like me, it takes you a while to get around to it.

Browning the meatballs

2 tbsp cumin seeds
600g minced lamb
2 tbsp sumac
salt and pepper to season
4 tbsp light oil
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
800g canned tomatoes (2 cans)
2 cinnamon sticks
a handful of coriander leaves, chopped (I had parsley so used that instead)
300g couscous
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumer, quartered lengthways and finely sliced
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon juiced

Meatballs cooking in the sauce

1.  Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan over a high heat for a minute and grind with a mortar and pestle. Add to the lamb with the sumac and mix thoroughly with your hands.

2.  Shape into small meatballs about 2.5cm in diameter.  Season lightly and taste by frying off a small ball and adjusting where necessary.  Put half the light oil in the frying pan over a medium heat and fry the meatballs on all sides until brown.  Leave to the side.

3.  Sauté the garlic for 30 seconds in the remaining oil.  Add the tomatoes and cinnamon and stir through.  Add the meatballs and cook for 10 mins until cooked through.

4.  Meanwhile, cover the couscous with boiling water in a bowl and seal with cling film.  After 10 mins, when the water should have been absorbed, run a fork through to fluff it up.  Mix with the tomato and cucumber and dress with the olive oil and lemon.  Season to taste.

5.  Season the meatball sauce and add the coriander, stirring through.

6.  Serve hot on top of the couscous salad.

Niamh with a fiddlehead haul in Canada

Serves four.  Adapted from Comfort and Spice.

You can buy Comfort and Spice from my book club on Amazon for £9.01 (bargain!) or in Australia it is $35 in the shops (someone please explain why we have to pay SO much for books here).  


  1. The book looks beautiful as do the meatballs. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I’m pretty sure any kind of meatballs wins, but these, and because they are from Niamh’s book, RULEZ.

  3. It’s such a great book isn’t it, and as you say – very true to the spirit of Niamh’s book. How lovely to finally get it in a Melbourne book shop as a reminder of your adventures in London.

  4. This does look very good indeed, exactly the kind of comfort food one needs for cold January evenings, I think I might just have to get Niamh’s book. sumac interesting, I don’t think I know what it tastes like. I might have had it without knowing it?

  5. Wow!! You know a celebrity (anyone who has anything published is one) and I read your blog.. so you can be my 5 minutes of fame connection 🙂

  6. I’ve also been reading niamh’s recipes online (: here in london, the evening standard also features one of her recipes each time, and they’ve all been gorgeous!

  7. I could do with that for supper right now! I haven’t had dinner at all arrghh… trying to crash diet :S

  8. I’m a huge meatball fan, especially when their homemade. These look delicious!

  9. Leaf – It’s a great book

    Catty – Exactly.

    Katy Salter – Yes strange but fun to buy it at the other side of the world.

    Ute – It is made from dried berries and took me a bit of effort to track down but apparently you can also get it online if you can’t find it easily.

    Miss I Hua – Yes I think Niamh is pretty much a genuine celebrity now.

    HK Epicurus – Oh no, you need some meatballs It hink.

    Kyleen – Agreed. They are such good comfort food.

  10. LOL – I am glad to see I am not the only one who has a to do list stretching back into last year… I have been meaning to make & blog something from Niamh’s book for the longest time! It’s a great book (and that pork is indeed spectacular!) and what a fab pic of Niamh! Love the meatballs.

  11. Jeanne- Oh look forward to seeing what you make. I do recommend the meatballs but there is a lot in there that is tempting.

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