Indian-spiced meatballs with cucumber mint raita

At a 'Temple Run'-themed birthday party these Indian-spiced meatballs were a hit with the younger guests, and grown-ups, too. Raita is a refreshing yogurt dip, because who doesn't love to dip?

The Gourmand Mom
Don't wait for a birthday party to try these meatballs. Make them for dinner and serve with basmati rice and steamed veggies.

Anyone play the game, "Temple Run?" You know, the video game for phones and tablets where this great big, manic, hybrid gorilla-vulture creature chases your character as you dodge fire, rushing waterfalls, and treacherous cliffs at the same time as trying to collect shiny medallions and green gems? That’s the one.

We’re big fans of that game around here, bordering on obsession, to the point that I had to give it up for Lent to prevent myself from spending every second of my already minimal free time dodging fire and escaping gorilla beasts. Well, when my oldest son requested a Temple Run themed birthday party for his 6th birthday, I promptly replied, “No, they don’t make Temple Run party supplies. I’m not even sure how we’d do that. Think of another theme. How about pirates or rock ‘n’ roll or superheroes?”

But, my son is not easily dissuaded once he’s stuck on an idea, so he persisted with his request. And I persisted with offering alternate ideas. Construction trucks, a luau, dinosaurs??? But after a bit of brainstorming with some friends, a vision for a Temple Run themed party started to evolve. We’d construct a Temple Run obstacle course in the backyard. There would be fire and waterfalls and a cave. There would be green gems and monkeys and tropical birds.

There would be a terrifying gorilla chasing our young party guests through the course, as they attempted to gather gold medallions and green gems to redeem for goody bag treats. Perhaps we’d need to ask parents to sign a waiver as they arrived with the party guests. (Kidding, sort of.) My husband was skeptical about this insane plan, but I’m just about as hard to dissuade as our 6 year old, once I’m set on an idea.

Once the vision for our "Temple Run" course was in place, all that was left to do was plan an appropriately themed menu. Admittedly, I was stuck for quite a while. I even tried researching the supposed setting for the "Temple Run" game, but came up empty handed. Then, I started thinking about "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." I certainly wasn’t about to go down the monkey brains and snake-stuffed snakes route for our menu, but then it occurred to me that Temple of Doom took place in India, which just happens to serve up some of my family’s favorite food. In fact, chicken tikka masala with naan is high on the list of the birthday boy’s favorite foods.

An Indian-themed buffet it would be. From that point, it was just a matter of selecting dishes that would appeal to both children and adults, as well as people who might not be so adventurous when it comes to trying new foods. The other top priority was ease of reheating during the party. We settled on chicken tikka masala, naan, basmati rice with cinnamon, cardamon, and peas, Indian-spiced meatballs with Raita, beef and potato samosas with mango chutney, Indian chickpeas, and mango lassis (mango yogurt smoothies).

We also served a large platter of fresh fruit as well as a plate full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, for anyone craving something a bit less adventurous. The PB&Js went largely untouched, as our "Temple Run" menu was enjoyed by most of our guests, big and small. 

Today, I’m sharing the recipe for the Indian-spiced meatballs and raita. Raita is a refreshing yogurt dip, not too different from a Greek tzatziki sauce. It’s frequently served as a cooling counterbalance to spicy Indian dishes, and while these meatballs are not overly spicy, the raita makes a perfect dip. (Kids love to dip stuff. Trust me.) I added these meatballs to the menu mostly to appeal to our younger guests, but they were a notable hit with the bigger guests, too!

Indian-spiced meatballs
Makes about 24 small meatballs 

Ingredients

1 small or 1/2 medium onion, very finely diced

1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced

1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 pound ground beef

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Wipe a baking sheet with a little oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Combine the chopped onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, garam masala, salt, cayenne pepper, eggs, and bread crumbs (everything except the meat) in a large bowl, until evenly blended. Add the meat. Use your hands to combine the mixture, just enough to evenly disperse the ingredients.

3. Form the mixture into balls, about 1 1/2-inch in diameter. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, until cooked through.

Cucumber mint raita

1 large seedless cucumber

1-1/2 cups plain yogurt

1/8 cup fresh mint leaves, finely diced

salt and pepper

1. Use a box grater to finely grate the cucumber. Squeeze the cucumber gratings to remove as much liquid as possible. (If you have a piece of cheesecloth available, it’s useful to place the cucumber gratings inside the cheesecloth, then squeeze to remove the excess liquid.)

2. Combine the cucumber, yogurt, and chopped fresh mint.

3. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

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