Thursday, April 21, 2022

Fava bean and knotweed meatballs

I love meatballs. I love fava beans. And then there is the edible invasive weed element.

This recipe is inspired by dishes with a heavy Middle Eastern spin, unapologetic with the spices and herbs.

The Frenchman wolfed these. I only told him he was eating weeds halfway through. That's how you reel them in.

You may know the knotweed story by now. Here it is in some detail, if you don't.

Japanese knotweed hails from EastAsia, as its common name suggests, where it has natural pests and competition. But Reynoutria japonica  (its other botanical names are still floating about: Polygonum cuspidatum, Reynoutria japonica) is highly invasive in parts of North America and Europe (the UK has an annual budget in the millions to combat it).

And it happens to be a really good vegetable in the springtime, when it is tender. Most people do not know that. It is also packed with anti inflammatory resveratrol, which has been cited in treatments for heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes.

I just like the taste. I have still not run out of ways to use it.

Serves Four

Adding breadcrumbs to meatballs makes them wonderfully tender. The dill and cumin reward you with a fragrant puff of flavor when you bite into them. Dill works well with tart flavors, and sorrel-tart is what Japanese knotweed is all about.

(If you don't have Japanese knotweed, increase the lemon juice to 3 Tablespoons, and add a cup of peas to the fava beans.)

For the Meatballs

1.5 lbs ground lamb
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs (or coarsely ground bread crumbs)
1 cup finely sliced scallions (or field garlic)
1/2 cup chopped dill
3 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 happy hen egg
2 Tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil

For the Sauce

2 cups fava beans, shelled
2 cups tender Japanese knotweed tips
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup chicken broth
20 mint leaves, torn up
1 Tablespoon olive oil

In a large bowl combine all the meatball ingredients and mix well. (You could do this the day before and leave, covered, in the fridge.)

Form the mixture into golfball-sized meatballs. It helps to wet the palms of your hands every now and then, to keep the mixture from sticking. Put aside on a plate (this can also be done the day before, and left covered in the fridge.)

Heat a couple of tablespoons of grapeseed oil in a large pan. When it is hot add about 8 meatballs, brown them on two sides; remove to a plate and brown the next batch (they should not be cooked though). Once they have all been browned return them to the pan, and add the fava beans, the lemon juice, and the cup of chicken broth. Over high heat shake the pan to get the beans in touch with the hot liquid. They will begin to lose its fresh green color. After 5 minutes add the knotweed (or peas) and continue cooking until they are tender.

Taste the pan juices, and add salt and pepper. Just before removing the pan from the heat drizzle the tablespoon of olive oil over everything and add the torn up mint leaves. Stir to allow the oil to emulsify, and serve at once, in bowls.

Good with buttered basmati and dilled yogurt.

* Pick knotweed only where you see the previous season's canes growing above the shoots. This indicates that no weedkiller (usually Roundup) has been sprayed there.

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