Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

Lamb Merguez Meatballs

Lamb Merguez Meatballs

Highly spiced lamb merguez is traditionally a dish from North Africa, just across the Mediterranean from Spain. To add a Spanish influence, orange zest is included with the other aromatics, and the finished meatballs are drizzled with a citrus sauce.


For the spice mix:

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 4 teaspoons pimentón
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

For the herb-lemon sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons of the spice mix
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea), to taste

For the meatballs:

  • Rest of the spice mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 pounds ground lamb


Step 1

Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat. When warm, add the cumin, fennel, and coriander seeds and toast until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a spice or coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Transfer to a large bowl, then add the pimentón, cayenne, and black pepper, and mix.

Step 2

Make the sauce: Place 2 tablespoons of the mix in the work bowl of a food processor along with
the garlic, parsley, mint, lemon juice, and zest; process until a paste forms. With the food processor running, add the olive oil and process until emulsified. Taste and season with salt if desired.

Step 3

Make the meatballs: To the large bowl with the spice mix, add the cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, whisking well. Fold in the orange zest, garlic, parsley, and salt. Then add the ground lamb and use your hands (you may want to run them under cold water first) to distribute the seasonings evenly. Chill for 30 minutes to make the meatballs easier to form, then shape them into 1 1/2- to 2-inch balls.

Step 4

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil and one even layer of meatballs (you may need to sauté in batches). Use tongs to brown them on all sides, rotating until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drizzle with the sauce and serve.

Serves 4 (8 as tapas)