Meatballs in Sour Cherry Sauce

By Anissa Helou

Meatballs in Sour Cherry Sauce

Meatballs in Sour Cherry Sauce. If there is a dish that symbolises the cooking of Aleppo, this has to be it. 

Kabab Karaz


Maria Gaspard Samra, a rare Syrian woman chef who gave cooking classes before the destruction of the city, grinds the cherries before cooking them, while my friends Lena Toutounji (famous for having one of the best tables in Aleppo) and May Mamarbachi (creator of the first boutique hotel in Damascus, Beit Mamlouka) both leave the cherries whole. May very kindly gave me cherries from her frozen stock so I could test the recipe. If you are unable find fresh or frozen sour cherries, you can use dried.


Serves 4


For the meatballs

450g lean minced lamb, from the leg or shoulder

1/2 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

15g unsalted butter


For the cherry sauce

1kg fresh or frozen pitted sour cherries  (see Note)

1 tablespoon golden caster sugar

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses


For assembly

2–3 round pita breads, split open into 4–6 discs, then cut into medium triangles

15g unsalted butter, melted

A few sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, most of bottom stems discarded, then finely chopped

50g pine nuts, toasted in a hot oven for 5–7 minutes, or until lightly golden


To make the meatballs, mix together the lamb, salt and allspice. Shape into small balls the size of large marbles. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat and sauté the meatballs until lightly browned all over.

Put the cherries, caster sugar and pomegranate molasses into a pot large enough to eventually hold the meatballs and bring to a bubble over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium­ low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Add the meatballs and simmer for 15 minutes, or until they are tender.

To assemble the dish, spread out the pita bread triangles all over a serving platter, coarse side up, making sure the pointed ends are nicely arranged on the outside. Drizzle the melted butter all over the bread. Spoon the meatballs and sauce over the bread. Sprinkle the chopped parsley all over, then the toasted pine nuts. Serve immediately.


Note: If you can’t find fresh sour cherries, use dried sour cherries and simply rehydrate them by soaking them overnight in water: 500ml water for 400g pitted dried sour cherries. Add the soaking water along with the cherries when you make the sauce.


Feast by Anissa Helou is published by Bloomsbury ($80) Out now!


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