Spicy Ostrich Meatballs in Saucy Salsa

Summer produce in South Africa is awesome – melons, berries, grapes, figs and more. It’s the time for eating outdoors, for crisp salads that are far too cold to eat in winter, for watermelon dripping off chins, grilled fish, plates of tapas , refreshing chilled drinks and a constant supply of ice cubes.

From my previous posts, you would know that we experienced a heat wave of epic proportions for these parts, last week. On one of those sizzling days, I felt like enjoying a dinner that was a little more comforting than a pile of salad leaves or a grilled chicken breast.

I decided to give my meatball recipe a little summer twist (ostrich is my meat of choice, and you can read more about the virtues of the meat here) and serve them in a double tomato sauce: silky passata, served warm not hot and fresh tomato salsa added minutes before serving.  I know the thought of eating spicy food in the warmer months may be difficult for some to imagine- but ostrich (like lamb and beef), marries so well with cumin, ground coriander, fresh coriander and a spike of chilli (you can adjust this to your preference), so don’t think ‘heat’, think depth of flavour, and this is exactly what these spices add.

Ostrich is quite a dark meat, so while these balls will get darker while they bake, they will still be succulent and incredibly morish.

This combines comforting (succulent homemade meatballs) and a flavoursome, fresh sauce. Best of both, and a delight to enjoy on warm evenings, as the African sun dissipates and the odd breeze blows through the open doors and windows.


Serves 4

For Meatballs:

500g lean ostrich mince (or beef/lamb)

1 tsp ground ginger and garlic paste

10ml ground cumin

10ml ground coriander

5ml cinnamon powder

1/2 t crushed chilli flakes

10ml chilli jam or relish (optional)

5 salad onions,sliced finely (or 2 spring onions)

1T  finely chopped fresh coriander (remove thick stalks, if any)

1T finely chopped mint

2 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1 large egg

5 T fresh bread crumbs

salt, to taste

Drizzle of olive oil

*I also added 1/2 green chilli, finely chopped*

For sauce:

2T finely chopped onion

500g passata (ready- made: why tamper with a good thing and spend hours more, when you don’t have to?)

2 large, firm salad tomatoes chopped into small cubes

1 tsp sugar

salt to taste

10ml olive oil

coriander to garnish


Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl, except the bread crumbs and mix well. Add breadcrumbs spoon by spoon. The mixture must not be too gooey (or too dry) and must combine well. You’ll know it’s the right consistency, when you can roll it into balls fairly easily, without too much of the mixture sticking to your hands.

I made mini meatballs- I got roughly 28 out of the mixture.

Place on a greased tray, drizzle olive oil over the balls and bake for 10minutes. Remove the tray, turn the balls over and bake for a futher 5-6 minutes. Set aside.

You may also pan fry till done, but I prefer to bake them.

In a wide pan, heat the onions in oilve oil, over medium heat, till translucent and starting to brown.

Add passata, sugar and salt. Stir. Adjust seasoning. Add meatballs.

Just before serving, add fresh tomato and coriander leaves.

I served this on a bed of creamy mash, but you could serve with rice or a pasta of your choice.

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