leon meatballs

leon meatballs

I was overjoyed to discover there was a Leon on my “doorstep” – Bluewater to be precise. Well it’ s not in London, so that’s a start. The family and I went there and tried out a bunch of things. It was little unconventional but healthy, hearty and good fun. The hands-down dish of the day was the meatballs, who have been praised by all sorts, including some Gordon Ramsay chap.

I was ecstatic to discover the recipe on the Guardian website. Trying it myself, it was a recipes of ups and downs. The sauce was a disaster, calling for 1½ tablespoons of harissa. Even taking it down to a teaspoon was still volcanic. Maybe I possess the hottest harissa on the planet, I don’t know. The sauce was ruined though, burning hot. The meatballs themselves was lovely though – the clever bit is torn-up soggy pitta breads, giving a earthy, toasted flavour that’d be really hard to put your finger on if you didn’t know what was in them.

So meatballs = yes, sauce = no.

(Incidentally, the leftovers made for a mean moussaka the following week topped with grilled aubergine and bechamel!)

Leon meatballs (makes loads and loads, serves about 6 – 8):

For the meatballs:

6 pitta breads

120ml milk

1kg minced lamb

A small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

A small handful of mint, finely chopped

1 tsp dried oregano

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

For the sauce:

30ml olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 x 800g tins of chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon harissa

A handful of basil, chopped

A handful of parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper

  1. Rip the flatbread into pieces and soak 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.
  2. Mix well, then roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls.
  3. On a griddle pan, brown the balls quickly – it’s all about colouring them and not cooking them through … five minutes total cooking time with about three turns on the griddle.
  4. 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.
  5. Lastly, stir in the herbs and have a final seasoning check.


  • Bloody hell, that’s a LOT of harissa. I made a cake the other day that wanted two tablespoons of ground ginger, plus about half a jar of preserved stem ginger. Not sure who tests these recipes…

    I’ve never been to Leon but I’ve drooled over the cookbooks. The meatballs look yummy 🙂

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