Mark Hix says: When Allegra McEvedy, who runs the Leon restaurants specialising in fresh fast food, handed me her new book Leon: Ingredients & Recipes (Conran Octopus, £20), I was pleasantly inspired. It not only has great recipes, but lots of information on basic ingredients. "Meatballs are always in our top five," says Allegra. "Since we opened, our guys in the kitchen have rolled more than five million of them – side by side they could run the entire length of the Central line and back again."
One and a half wholemeal flatbreads (the smaller size, roughly 20cm in diameter) or pitta
1kg minced lamb
A small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
A small handful of mint, finely chopped
1tsp dried oregano
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
30ml olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 x 800g tins of chopped tomatoes
1tbsp harissa paste
A handful of basil, leaves picked and chopped
A handful of parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
Rip the flatbread into pieces and soak them in the milk for 10 minutes. Then put the bread into a mixing bowl, add the mince and stir in the parsley, mint, oregano, garlic and some seasoning. Mix well, then roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls (about 20g each).
Either on a griddle pan (best) or under a very hot grill, brown the balls quickly – it's all about colouring them and not cooking them through ... cook them for about 5 minutes in total with about three turns on the griddle.
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and gently fry the crushed garlic. Tip in the chopped tomatoes and harissa and simmer for 25–30 minutes, until the sauce has reduced. Put in the meatballs and continue to simmer for a further 20 minutes with a lid on until the sauce looks about right. Lastly stir in the herbs and have a final seasoning check.