While traveling through South Dakota, I came across this awesome little co-op, where I was lucky enough to score some freshly ground local lamb. Now normally, I use ground meat to make either chili or jerky. The problem with that, however, is that so much of the meats own flavor gets lost in the wash. Which, when it comes to most meat, isn’t really that big of deal, but this is different… because this is lamb, and lamb is just so finger-licking-double-text-worthy delicious all on it’s own.
I started brain storming and decided there is no better way to extenuate a meat’s taste then to smash it into a ball and bake it! Problem was, this was my first go at making meatballs and all the recipes I came across were using lots of ingredients and spices (flavors that potentially threatened the purity of my lamb taste).
So I decided to wing it a bit and used a crazy-basic mix of:
- Ground Pistachios
- Ground Lamb
I simply formed them into balls, browned them on the stove in my cast iron skillet, and then transferred to the 400f oven for 20mins.
Although I can’t take to much credit for the recipe, as a simple Google search will reveal that I am far from the first one to mix pistachios with lamb, I would like to take credit for the creation of the crazy cool name: “Lamb-Achios” (which Google currently only associated with Pinterest and Facebook profiles).
Anyway, despite having a dozen less ingredients than Martha Stewart’s version, the simplistic recipe worked out beautifully. With the balls being perfectly cohesed by the egg, the salt doing whatever it does, and the pistachio’s subtle flavor acting as the perfect background, each bite became a successful celebration of lamb’s distincively-wondrous taste.
However, for me the real hero of this dish isn’t the flavor-bursting, aromatic, grass-fed lamb… it’s the tangy white fermented stuff poured over the top. This viili (pronounced “feel-yuh”) yogurt is not only delicious, but is by far the easiest do-it-yourself yogurt that I have yet to find. This traditionally Finnish culture can easily be made by setting it out at room temperature, with no special equipment. Best part of all, once you get a jar going you can continually mix a scoop of it with fresh milk to make more- endless yogurt at your disposal!
The tangy sourness and ropy texture of this exquisite fermented dairy product make it perfect for sauces, granola bowls, or just devouring straight from the jar. If you are at all interested in beginning some dairy fermentation experiments at home I highly recommend this yogurt as the perfect place to start.
What you need:
Anything that doesn’t say “Ultra-Pasteurized”
-Dried viili starter
I got mine for $15 from these guys, highly recommended
This explanation begins with how-to “start” your viili, meaning that the below seemingly complicated directions are only a one time thing! Once you get it going it only takes a few minutes to create a new batch.
1. Mix 1/2 tsp of viili starter in a clean jar with 2 tbsp of milk
Give it a good stir!
2. Cover the jar with a coffee filter and let sit at room temperature
3. Wait until it sets
Basically the idea is to check your viili every 7ish hours to see if it has “set” -when slightly jiggled the milk is jelly like and holds its form. It is common for it to take a few days with dehydrated starters, so be patient. If your viili has not set within 36 hours, move on to step 4 anyway
4. Refrigerate overnight (8-12 hours)
Cover with a regular lid
Stir in 1/4 cup of milk
Repeat steps 2-5 until it has set- and been refrigerated overnight. You now have a starter! Move on to step 6!
6. Use a scoop of your viili starter to create your first batch!
The idea is simple, mix 25% viili with 75% milk and let sit at room temperature during the day, before you go to bed pop it in the fridge. The next morning take as much as you want out of the jar to mix with fresh milk for another batch, and eat the rest!
7. Blend your viili with mint and jalapeno and pour it over the top of your freshly baked “Lam-Achio Meatballs”
Easy as that!
The above how-to and explanation is my own interpretation of the detailed how-to guide provided by Nathan and Emily at Yemoos, and is meant to give you a basic idea of the simplicity of creating viili at home. Their how-to provides much more detail, and is a great resource for any aspiring fermentists!
Does the yogurt sound simple enough to try out?
Got any creative meatball concoctions of your own?