To my mind there are two characteristics most dishes of Moroccan descent ought to possess; vibrancy and a slight sweetness. You will, of course, be glad to hear that these Moroccan meatballs enjoy both qualities and are exceedingly frugal. Then again, as this blog should have taught you, rustic, hearty food often holds the latter trait. Remember, even good quality, well-sourced minced beef can be had at a reasonable price.
Over the past couple of years I’ve had a number of people offer me instruction in how best to make meatballs. Some are quite sure that an egg is necessary, though a visible proportion say otherwise, and similar pointers have been received concerning the inclusion of bread – a few have even had the audacity to claim that neither benefit the process. However, in my experience, both have proved themselves indispensable and without their mutual presence all one is likely to create is a somewhat stiff and unpleasant ball of meat. Follow this recipe if you wish to avoid such a thing.
Whether you use lamb or beef in this recipe is purely at your own discretion. Good quality beef mince is less fatty and cheaper than lamb mince and a little easier to come by. However, if you have the means and the inclination, lamb is probably the more authentic and distinctive choice. Personally, I prefer lamb that isn’t minced – if you’re of a similar persuasion, can I suggested that you use lamb neck. If you need advice on quite how to prepare such a cut please see my recipe for Welsh cawl. The advantage of using a cut like lamb neck is that bone and cartilage do a great job of thickening and enriching a casserole giving it that extra edge. by the way, don’t forget to use Welsh lamb, it’s tops!
- 300g beef mince
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh herbs
- 1 egg
- 40g breadcrumbs
- Salt, a pinch of
- Pepper, a pinch of
- 2 tsp cumin seed
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
- 1-2 chillies, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 2x400g tins of peeled plum tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- A large handful of raisins
- 200g chickpeas
- 1 tbsp honey
1. To make the meatballs pop the meat, herbs of your choosing, egg, breadcrumbs and seasoning in a large bowl and work thoroughly with both hands. Roll the mixture into 12-14 evenly sized meatballs and place on a floured plate in the fridge. They can be made a few hours in advance or even the night before.
2. Toast the cumin seeds gently in a pan until they release their aroma. Transfer them to a pestle and mortar and grind them roughly. Put 3 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and begin to fry the cumin together with the cinnamon. Immediately add the celery and onions and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and chilli, before tipping in the bay leaves and peppers. Add the tomatoes and purée and cook for an hour over a gentle heat.
3. Turn the oven to 160C. Add the raisins, chickpeas and honey to the sauce and set aside. Fry the meatballs in a drizzle of olive oil until browned. Transfer the sauce to a large earthen casserole and place the meatballs evenly into the mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes. Serve with rice or cous cous.
Cost: There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, but with a little care they can be sourced without too much expense. All in all, this delicious and thoroughly filling meal should set one back around £4.80. Whilst this is a little more expensive than my usual offerings, it remains exceedingly reasonable for what it is.