Tudor Style Roasted Lamb Meatballs in Sauce

Fans of a nice Mezze platter or hot Tagine will know, as well as the Tudors did, that cinnamon and cloves are not weird things to sprinkle and roll into your meatballs. 

I remember years ago, the wide-eyed, nine-year old me was told that spices were used in food in 'olden days' to mask the flavour of rotting meat. 

This makes no sense. 

Farming was much more small-scale and individual than it is today, with very little waste. Intensive production-line farming was five hundred years into the future. Meat was expensive and if a family could afford to eat it, it would have been bought in small quantities, cooked and eaten straight away. I'm sure, too, that they would have shared any leftovers if they had it, with family and neighbours. 

No, I don't think that the Tudors tried to 'disguise' the whiff of rotten meat with herbs and spices. They used them because they enjoyed the exotic and warming flavours they brought to the dish. When reading sixteenth century - and older - cookbooks there is a real sense that the authors really grasped the qualities of each spice or herb used. As written in Gerard's book on plants in 1597, spices were believed to have medicinal qualities, too. 

Some notes to compare these meatballs to the original ones, before we start: 

This recipe, which first appeared in A Book of Cookrye in 1591 used mutton, which is great if you can get it, but I've used lamb as it's generally easier to get hold of. The all-important quantities of ingredients aren't specified, so I've considered modern tastes here and added enough to gently 'season' the meat. Feel free to tweak a little with the amounts listed if you'd like a stronger spice, but go easy. And finally, the original recipe has these meatballs rolled raw and dunked into a sauce to continue cooking. I've roasted them because I like the flavours this gives. 

Like most of the foods I adapt from historic sources, these were really tasty. The sauce is thickened with egg yolk, resulting in a creamy and very rich sauce. The dried fruits in the broth sweeten the sauce, and it honestly tasted to me like a richer version of our favourite Swedish meatball dish.


Tudor Style Roasted Lamb Meatballs in Sauce
Serves 4
Adapted from A Book of Cookrye, 1591
For the meatballs:
  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of sugar (optional)
  • quarter teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • quarter teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch of ground cloves
  •  pinch of mace
  • good pinch of salt
For the sauce: 
  • 350ml beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons currants or raisins
  • 3 dates, pitted and chopped into small pieces
  • pinch of mace
  • salt (optional)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Slice of bread, to serve (best choice would be a slice of sourdough)

Heat the oven to 200ÂșC. 

In a bowl, mix the lamb mince with the egg, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, mace and the pinch of salt.

Roll into balls and place in a shallow baking dish. Slide into the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through, sizzling and golden. 

Once the meatballs are ready, quickly make the sauce. 

Heat a medium-sized saucepan with the stock, dried fruits, dates and mace. Place the egg yolk in a small ramekin and ladle in a few tablespoons of the hot stock, stirring quickly. Lower the heat of the pan and tip in the egg yolk/stock mixture to thicken the stock, stirring well with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring, on a low to medium heat, until thickened slightly.  

Taste and season with salt if needed and serve the freshly roasted meatballs on a slice of bread with the sauce spooned over. 

Liked this? You might also like more Medieval and Tudor recipes over on my recipes page. There's Tudor Roasted Apples, Marchpane and a peek into what Henry VIII might have had on his cheeseboard

Did you try these? If so, share a photo to Instagram and tag me @lovebritishhistorypics - I'll share any I see. 

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