This unusual starter is usually served at room temperature, and it is somewhat reminiscent of Lebanese or Turkish cuisine, as were many of the other dishes I tasted on my brief visit. In fact, the cuisine of Transylvania seems to have many influences from other countries.
Small onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
1 small clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
tsp ground cumin
3tbsp vegetable or corn oil
50g cooked long grain rice
350g minced lamb
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g Greek yoghurt
A small handful of mint leaves, chopped
2tbsp capers, rinsed
Heat a tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a pan and gently cook the onion, garlic, thyme, cumin and paprika for 2-3 minutes, stirring every so often until soft. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and leave to cool. Chop the rice up a bit, then add to the onion mixture with the minced lamb; season and mix well. Mould the mixture into 10 pence-sized balls, place on a tray and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Heat the remaining vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan and cook the meatballs in a couple of batches on a medium heat for 6-7 minutes, turning them as they are cooking; then transfer to a colander and leave to cool a little.
To serve, mix the yoghurt, mint and capers together, then mix with the meatballs and transfer to a serving dish.