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North African Meatballs

March 26, 2010

A few weeks ago, my book club met to discuss a book called The Bolter which was set partly in Edwardian London and partly in Kenya in the early 1900s. And while we usually don’t theme our dinners after our books, our host this time decided to give it a go (even though the recipe she chose was more Moroccan, which geographically isn’t close to Kenya at all) .  And what a fabulous job she and her hubby did making this dish!  I figured this recipe would be a winner since the house smelled incredible when I walked in and my stomach growled the entire time we discussed the book before dinner.

And I was right.  These were some awesome meatballs, truly awesome.  The cinnamon lends a great deal of of earthy flavor to the meatballs and sauce which I loved but Kyle wasn’t entirely sold on.  Next time I’ll use a little less cinnamon and a little less crushed red pepper since I found the sauce to be a bit too spicy.  I basically stayed true to the sauce and meatball recipes but adapted the couscous a little and you’ll see my changes below. You should note that 3/4 lb of meat does not yield 32 meatballs as the original recipe states – you’ll get more like 12-14 (1 1/2″) meatballs which is still enough to feed four people with the couscous.  So if you’re looking for a new quick and delicious meal, give this one a shot. And for what it’s worth, the meal was way better than the book!

North African Meatballs

source: adapted from Melissa D’Arabian, FoodNetwork

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/2 cup pitted and chopped briny olives
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • Pinch (small) ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the meatballs:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus a extra for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch (small) ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 pound turkey
  • 1/3 cup finely ground rolled oats or fine bread crumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (such as canola), for cooking
  • Couscous with Dried Dates, recipe follows

To make the sauce:

In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and olives and cook for 1 more minute. Add the white wine, deglaze the pan, and let it reduce for a 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, canned tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon, and simmer to blend flavors, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To make the Meatballs:

  1. In a medium bowl, add the egg and tomato paste and stir until smooth. Add the cilantro, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon and mix until well blended. Stir in the ground beef and oats, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and combine gently after each addition. Do not over mix. Rolling with your hands, make about 12-14 meatballs, about 1 1/2 inch in diameter.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat, and brown the meatballs in batches until golden on all sides. Add more oil, as needed. Transfer the meatballs to the pan with the sauce and let simmer for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve over the Couscous with Dried Dates.

Couscous with Dried Dates

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped dried dates or raisins
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring the water, stock, and oil to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the the couscous, cinnamon, cumin, and garlic powder. Reduce heat, cover the pan tightly with a lid, and simmer for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, add the dates, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2010 7:28 am

    I am in love with North African and Moroccan flavors – must be because I love cinnamon so much! Ironically there’s lots of these recipes on my blog this week and last 🙂

  2. March 26, 2010 12:57 pm

    Personally, i tend to think anything Moroccan tastes amazing. Then again, I think it’s the cinnamon lover in me. This dish looks delicious!

  3. March 26, 2010 6:01 pm

    I love Moroccan food and I’ve taken to adding cinnamon to lots of savory foods.

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