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Baked Lamb and Oregano Meatballs

January 20, 2015

Three years ago, I met Tony… As a typical “we met in college” story goes, we met at Evanston’s second classiest establishment, The Deuce, and I was inebriated beyond recollection.

In the four years that I had gone to Northwestern I had never met nor heard of Tony. I did, however, see him frequently on my way to class during my senior year and thought to myself, “that boy is so cute.” A very rare finding at NU. Maybe it was the alcohol or my love life at the time, which was non-existent, but I was determined to meet him.




I saw him a few nights before at Evanston’s most notorious bar, “The Keg,” and my best friend, Regan, suggested that maybe it wasn’t the best line to introduce yourself as, “Hi, I’m Claire and we sometimes make awkward eye contact on our way to class,” but as I said, I was determined and that’s exactly what I did the second night I saw him out at The Deuce. I introduced myself and Tony just stared blankly at me; apparently Tony had no idea what I was referring to and just thought I was a drunk girl at the bar… Which I later confirmed by asking him a total of ten times throughout our conversation if he remembered my name or not. Smoooooth.




I’m told we chatted about my food blog, The Cellar, hockey, running, traveling, and dogs among other things. At the end of the night as sober Tony tried to end his night early as the designated driver, he asked if I wanted to go back to Evanston, which I misinterpreted as him trying to make a pass and said, “Um, no! But if you want, you can ask me for my number and maybe we can go out sometime…”

Surprisingly, Tony did ask me for my number, but the following morning I could only recall giving my number to “the really cute guy,” but couldn’t remember if his name was Mark or not… The start to every good love story!




Two days passed before Tony texted me telling me he “hoped I remembered Tony from the Deuce,” and then asked to go to coffee the following day. We met at Peet’s Coffee, where we could not stop talking and I learned that he has the most beautiful green eyes (when they’re actually open), was getting a puppy within the week, was Lebanese and Hungarian, spoke French fluently, played hockey, loved Rick Ross (but that was more of a negative), was a huge foodie, and had plans to travel the world… Our conversation was cut short because he had a hockey game and I had to develop some film, but he asked to take me to dinner the next night at The Cellar, since apparently I told him I had never gone and really wanted to the night we met…

After he dropped me off at my photography class, I walked in the building and then turned around and ran to the library as fast as I could so I could tell my best friend that I was in love and found “The One…” and the rest is history!




I am so thankful for you, Tony! You are my best friend, my biggest supporter, my adventure partner, and the greatest fiancé I could ever ask for. You make me comfortable enough to be me, 100% of the time. You love me unconditionally and have given me the opportunity to chase my dreams and travel the world. You’re the only person crazy enough to put up with my crazy. I love you and cannot wait for the rest of our adventures!




So I made you meatballs, the first dinner I made you in your dirty college apartment, but this time I didn’t double the garlic.

Baked Lamb and Oregano Meatballs recipe by Donna Hay:

½ cup (80 grams) fine burghul

¾ cup (185 milliliters) boiling water

1 kilogram lamb mince

2 eggs

2 cups oregano leaves, chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar

⅓ cup (80 millilitres) pomegranate molasses or balsamic glaze

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1½ tablespoons harissa paste

2¼ cups (700 grams) tomato purée (passata)

2 cups (200 grams) grated mozzarella

¼ cup (20 grams) finely grated pecorino

½ cup oregano leaves, extra

  1. Preheat oven to 250°C (500°F). Place the burghul and water in a large bowl and mix to combine. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to stand for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the grains are tender.
  2. Add the mince, eggs, oregano, cumin, 2 teaspoons of the sugar, the pomegranate molasses, salt and pepper and mix well to combine. Using wet hands, roll 2 tablespoons at a time into balls.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Cook the meatballs, in batches, turning frequently, for 5–7 minutes or until browned. Place in a 2.5-litre ovenproof dish and set aside.
  4. Heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until lightly golden. Add the harissa, purée, remaining sugar, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Bring to the boil and cook for 5–7 minutes or until slightly reduced.
  5. Pour the sauce into the dish over the meatballs and top with the mozzarella and pecorino.
  6. Bake for 10–12 minutes, top with the extra oregano leaves and cook for a further 2–3 minutes or until golden. Serves 4–6.
6 Comments leave one →
  1. Kaela permalink
    January 20, 2015 12:32 pm

    Tearing up over here! Thank you for sharing, Claire (both the recipe and your love story)!

  2. permalink
    January 21, 2015 10:35 am

    Hi! Love your love story. Know all the places as I am writing from Chicago! Please let me know if this recipe really calls for two cups of oregano…..that is a lot of oregano. If you say yes, then off I go to wipe out the oregano section.   Thanks and I am also an Italy lover (have traveled to 12 regions and still have 8 to hit for my bucket list).   Ciao, Mary Werner (Chicago)     

    • January 24, 2015 2:41 am

      Hi Mary, thank you very much! The original recipe by Donna Hay calls for 2 cups of fresh oregano, but I ended up dividing that between the meatballs and the garnish (1.5 cups for meatballs, .5 cup for the garnish) because I didn’t have enough oregano on hand either! Thank you for asking though and I hope you love them as much I did! The addition of pomegranate molasses is amazing!

  3. amikk1 permalink
    February 3, 2015 8:38 pm

    Claire! I didn’t know the whole story. Thanks for sharing! So glad I can keep up with you here. ❤

  4. amikk1 permalink
    February 3, 2015 8:39 pm

    Claire! I didn’t know the whole story. 🙂 so sweet. ❤

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