Cook the quinoa according to the package directions and drain. Place back over the heat and stir for a minute to remove any excess moisture. Remove from the heat and cool.
In a large bowl, combine the lamb, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, sumac, cayenne, cilantro, and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper. Give it a good mix with your hands, add the quinoa, and mix again until the ingredients are evenly distributed. I taste mine here and encourage you to do the same.
Cover the lamb mixture in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes, or up to 6 hours, to firm up a little.
Meanwhile, prepare the chickpeas. Add the cumin to a dry sauté pan and toast it for a couple of minutes over low heat, stirring often, until fragrant. Add the olive oil to the pan, then the onion and garlic, and sweat them down for about 5 minutes, still over low heat (you’re not looking for them to brown). Add the chickpeas along with the liquid in the can. Season with a little salt and pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes. You want the chickpeas to be fork tender but not so soft that they don’t hold together. Give the pan a shake every now and then.
Remove the pan from the heat and let the chickpeas cool a bit. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and check the seasoning. (You’ll be reheating the chickpeas quickly when the koftas are cooked.)
Remove the lamb mixture from the fridge and form it into football shapes. I start by rolling meatballs the size of a golf ball and then I squash them a little to elongate them. Or you can make the meatballs in any shape you like.
When you’re ready to eat, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Get the pan pretty hot, but not smoking hot. You want to get nice color on the lamb, but not so much heat that the outsides burn before the insides cook. Place the meatballs one by one in the pan and cook them for about 4 minutes each, until browned on the outside and cooked through in the middle. (If you want to prepare them in advance, cook them for a couple of minutes in a very hot pan to give them some color and then transfer them to a baking dish. When you’re ready to serve, finish them off in a 400°F oven for a few minutes.)
While the meatballs are cooking, gently warm the chickpeas over low heat. Slice the pitas into 4cm strips.
Place the warmed chickpeas on a serving platter and top with the meatballs. Keep the heat going on the sauté pan that held the meatballs and use that oil to fry the pita bread strips, about 1 minute on each side. Place the pita strips on the side of the platter, top the whole thing with cilantro leaves, and serve.
Courtesy of Fresh Happy Tasty by Jane Coxwell, published by HarperCollins.