These Lamb Meatballs and Shirazi Salad make an ideal meal for a hot summer’s day. You can grill the meatballs on the barbecue or under the oven grill / broiler. The salad is so refreshing and bright and the duo go perfectly with lightly toasted flatbread or white rice. This whole meal is actually Persian, and for those who don’t know I am half Persian. I grew up with these meatballs, except in kebab form.
My dad’s recipe is stupid simple, just lamb mince, onion and salt and pepper. But what makes the difference, is that we add in two onions instead of one. This gives the lamb a great flavour boost and not an overpowering taste of onion. My Georgie has also been eating my dad’s kebabs since she was tiny and they have always been her favourite thing to eat at my parents house.
The Shirazi salad can be likened to a non-spicy version of Pico de Gallo. In Iran, Shirazi salad is a common, traditional salad and with all recipes you get different variations. Mine has small diced cucumber and cherry tomatoes, finely chopped onion, a little fresh parsley and coriander or mint, lime juice and a little extra virgin olive oil. The important thing here is to marinate the salad in the lime juice for at least 20 minutes so it can soak up all the flavour. Then add the olive oil right before you serve and toss through. You can of course tailor your baby, toddler or fussy eater’s salad serving especially for them, see how to do this here.
If you want to serve these meatballs and salad with rice, you can make it even more authentically Persian by adding butter and an raw egg yolk. Just add them to your serving of serving of rice and mix in well. Sounds weird if you aren’t Persian I’m sure, but it’s SO good. If you want to do that, make sure the egg has a Red Lion stamp on it (and if you are in the US make sure the eggs are pasteurised and safe to eat raw). Don’t add the raw egg to the rice of any baby under 12 months.
How to Make My Lamb Meatballs with Shirazi Salad
Watch me make these Lamb Meatballs with Shirazi Salad step-by-step here, before or as you cook.
Pro Prep Tips
Use a large chef’s knife to make light work of dicing the cucumber and the onion, and use a serrated pairing or tomato knife to chop the tomatoes. You could also use a vegetable dicer, using the smallest dicing attachment for the onion and cucumber. Also, to finely chop the herbs I always use a mezzaluna for speed and efficiency.
The salad works great made ahead. Make it hours in advance and the flavour will be amazing. Just cover and refrigerate and only add the oil when it’s time to serve. The meatballs too can be made ahead, just pop them on a platter or tray that fits in your fridge and cover with clingfilm and chill until about 30 mins before you are ready to cook. Then take out to bring up to room temp.
Grilling the Meatballs
You can barbecue these no problem, my dad often used to grill the kebab version on the barbecue when I was growing up, but in more recent years he has stuck to cooking them under the oven grill (broiler). They are going to cook in a similar way, either way you’ll cook them for around 15 minutes until they have a lovely char on the outside and cooked on the inside. Under the grill or broiler you’ll turn them after 8 minutes. When you cook on the barbecue you’ll want to turn them 2-3 times and be sure to have a pair of long tongs around to do that, or use a grilling basket - one that closes with a handle for easy turning.
Kids Cook Too
Younger kids will love to get stuck into that lamb mixture and help to make the meatballs, just make sure they wash their hands well before and after. The can also help to mix the salad.
My Lamb Meats with Shirazi Salad Pair Perfectly With…
- A sprinkling of sumac, over the rice and to make it really Persian, add a fresh uncooked egg yolk (red lion stamp eggs only or pasteurised in the US) and a knob of butter. Mix in well.
- Flatbread, lightly toasted
- White basmati rice, recipe here >
Feed a Crowd
The salad is super easy to double for a crowd. The meatballs you can double, just bear in mind you’ll need to grill them in two batches, unless you are barbecuing them and you have a medium-large barbecue.
Storing My Lamb Meatballs with Shirazi Salad
You can store leftovers of the meatballs in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also freeze them, just defrost for 24 hours in the fridge and reheat until steaming hot all the way through. The salad is best eaten the same day, but it will be fine the next day also.
For more on safe food storage and reheating read here >
My Lamb Meatballs with Shirazi Salad is gluten, nut, diary and egg-free.
Adapting My Lamb Meatballs with Shirazi Salad For Your Family
Here, I recommend how to tweak this recipe if you are eating with a baby or toddler and I’ll also give tips for serving it to a fussy eater.
Keeping Picky Eaters Happy
Fussy eaters should be fine with the meatballs and flatbread or rice as they are. Prep their salad the best way for them, you can leave out all the bells and whistles (onion and herbs). And if they are tomato haters you can swap that for something else like pepper. You can either just give them the chopped cucumber and tomato plain or marinated in a drop of lime juice (make them up a separate little salad bowl). Some picky eaters prefer their meals deconstructed, if your’s is one of those, give them a pile of cucumber and a separate pile of tomatoes (or pepper).
See more from me on fussy eaters here >
Making it Baby & Toddler Friendly
All you need to tweak for the meatballs here is to leave out the salt, or just add a pinch. For the salad, when you come to prepare it, you are going to prep some tomatoes and cucumber especially for them.
How to Serve My Lamb Meatballs with Shirazi Salad to Babies & Toddlers
You can serve the meatballs as they are, or smash them down and break them up for little one.
Get a large tomato for little ones to eat whole, or cut into large wedges for them. Cut their cucumber into long finger size sticks, leaving the skin on for grip.
9 months +
Cherry tomatoes need to be cut into little wedges lengthways, at least quartered. Peel the cucumber and serve as sticks about little finger size.
You can serve these meatballs and salad if spoon-feeding too. If you’re serving with flatbreads (not rice) you’ll just need a little plain or natural yogurt in addition. You could also add in a little avocado. If you are serving with flatbreads, you can serve a few strips of flatbread on the side as finger food.
Add some broken up meatballs, roughly chopped cucumber and tomato to your stick blender pot (or food chopper if it purées). If serving rice then add a little. If not then add a little yogurt. Whizz into a purée. Add more yogurt or cold water if needed to loosen.
Add some broken up meatballs, roughly chopped cucumber and tomato to your food chopper. Add a little rice if serving, or a little yogurt if not. Using short sharp pulses to finely chop, checking and adding a little more yogurt or cold water to loosen as you go.
Add the meatballs, roughly chopped tomato and cucumber to your food chopper pot. If not serving with rice, add in a little yogurt. Gradually pulse, just a few times then check the consistency. It should lumpy with small pieces. Once the consistency is right, empty it into their bowl and add some rice if serving and stir through.
Break up the meatballs into bite-size pieces. The cucumber and tomato as you’ve prepared it for the salad will be fine to serve as is, just serve without onion. You can also serve their’s undressed and without the herbs if you like.
I’ve also added these notes to the bottom of the recipe so you have them to hand when you come to cook.
For more info on how I keep my family meals baby & toddler friendly, read here >
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LAMB MEATBALLS WITH SHIRAZI SALAD
- Chef’s knife + pairing / tomato knife + chopping board
- Food chopper / food processor / grater
- Large metal spoon or salad servers
- Tongs or forks
- Mezzaluna for the herbs, optional
FOR THE SALAD
- 1 cucumber
- 150 g cherry tomatoes
- ½ red onion finely diced
- ½ tablespoon fresh parsley finely chopped
- ½ tablespoon fresh coriander (cilantro) or mint finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons lime juice approx 1 lime
- Salt & black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
FOR THE MEATBALLS
- 500 g lamb mince 20% fat
- 2 onions
- Salt & pepper
- Flatbread or white basmati rice
- A sprinkle of sumac optional
For Baby, Toddler & Fussy Eater tweaks see Notes
FOR THE SALAD
- Top and tail the cucumber. Slice it in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds by running a teaspoon down the centre of each half and discard. Then slice each half lengthways into roughly 1cm strips. Then dice these slices small. Quarter your cherry tomatoes and then halve the quarters horizontally.
- Add the cucumber, tomatoes, onion, lime juice, herbs, salt & pepper (NOT the olive oil) to a medium-large bowl and toss well. Leave to marinade for at least 15 minutes. If you do it earlier on in the day, cover and refrigerate, then bring out around 1 hour before serving to bring up to room temperature. When ready to serve add the olive oil and toss again.
FOR THE MEATBALLS
- Preheat your oven grill/broiler to high (or get the barbecue on). Add a wire rack onto a large baking tray/sheet. Roughly chop the onions then transfer to your mini food chopper. Whiz until finely chopped. Alternatively, you can grate them.
- Add the onions into a medium-large mixing bowl, along with the lamb mince and the salt & pepper. Mix it well with your hands and form into meatballs of equal size, about 1 ½ inch in diameter, you should get around 22-23. Add them to the wire rack as you go, leaving a little gap between each one. Transfer to the oven and grill/broil for 9 minutes or until lightly charred, then turn them and continue to cook for another 6-7 minutes, until lovely and charred. Alternatively, cook on the barbecue grill for the about the same amount of time, turning 2-3 times.
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