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Spiced Lamb Balls with Pilli-Pilli Sauce from Burkina Faso, Africa

Pilli-pilli (also sometimes piri piri) Sauces. Two recipes below with translations for vegans and traditionalist.

I am currently doing a series on sauces. Here a recipe with a sauce that I came across in a pre 1800 account of the Mande town of Kya in West Africa that the British slave trader Theodore Canot tasted. “The savory steam of a rich stew with a creamy sauce saluted my nostrils, and, without asking leave, I plunged my spoon into a dish that stood before my entertainers, and seemed prepared exclusively for themselves,” he writes. Canot goes to say that his guest invited him to eat with them, “and so delicious did I find it, that, even at this distance of time, my mouth waters when I remember the forced meat balls of mutton, minced with roasted ground nuts, that I devoured that night in the Mandingo town of Kya. Here’s a recipe from Burkina Faso that is suggestive of Canot’s account.

Spiced lamb balls with pilli-pilli Sauce


1 yellow onion

1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

1 tsp. powdered ginger

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. crushed red peppers

l tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. sea salt

4 Tbs. peanut oil

2 Ibs cooked lamb or substitute seitan (wheat gluten) for lamb

(leftovers are fine) in 1-inch pieces


In a large skillet sauté: 1 cup yellow onions chopped coarsely with 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon, 1 tsp. powdered ginger, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. crushed red peppers, l tsp. coriander powder, 1 tsp. sea salt, 4 Tbs. peanut oil until onions are soft but not brown. Cut 2 Ibs cooked lamb or substitute seitan (wheat gluten) for lamb (leftovers are fine) in 1-inch pieces and mix with the onion mixture. Put through the meat grinder once using a coarse blade. Blend: 3 large eggs substitutes or eggs beaten lightly and 1/4 cup cracker or bread crumbs into mixture. Form into small 1-inch balls and dip in bread or cracker crumbs. Chill for 1 hour and then deep fry at 375 until brown, about 4 minutes. Spear balls with toothpicks and place in a casserole dish. Serve with Pilli-pilli sauce.

Pilli-pilli Sauce recipe


Cleaned and finely chopped chili peppers

One lemon juiced

Three minced garlic cloves

Minced parsley

One tablespoon palm oil or olive oil

Sea salt


Mix all ingredients by hand or with a blender, food processor.

Cook in a hot skillet for a few minutes.

Store in the refrigerator, this sauce can be used with allot of foods

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