Thursday, June 29, 2017

Moroccan Meatballs

Ingredients for 4-5 servings

For the saffron water:

½ teaspoon crumbled saffron strands
1 cup hot water

For the kefta:

¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Ceylon
1 pound lean ground lamb or beef
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin, preferably Moroccan
2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
3 tablespoons crème fraîche or grated beef suet
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

¼ cup saffron water
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
½ cup hot water
½ teaspoon ground cumin, preferably Moroccan
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1 medium red onion, grated
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 3 pinches cayenne
Pinch of ground turmeric


Make the saffron water

Toast the saffron strands in a warm, but not hot, skillet for just a minute or so. Crush again.

Soak the crushed, toasted saffron strands in the hot water and store in a small jar in the refrigerator for up to a week. Pour out ¼ cup saffron water for use in this recipe and reserve the remaining ¾ cup for another use (see LC Note above). For longer storage of the saffron water, quadruple the recipe quantities above, pour the saffron water into a plastic ice cube tray, and freeze into cubes. Once they are frozen, shake out the cubes and store in a freezer bag. Each cube will be equivalent to 2 tablespoons saffron water or a good pinch of dried saffron threads.

Make the kefta

Combine the ground lamb or beef, crème fraîche or beef suet, paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper, parsley and cilantro in a food processor and blend until a paste forms. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minute or until ready to cook. Shape the meat mixture into 24 olive-size balls and place on a plate. If you think you may not have seasoned the meatballs sufficiently with salt and pepper, pinch off a tiny bit of a meatball, sizzle it up in a skillet, and taste it. Season the meat mixture accordingly.

Make the sauce

Place an 11- or 12-inch tagine or cazuela or Dutch oven on a heat diffuser, if you have one, over medium-low heat. Add the grated onion, butter, saffron water, spices, salt, ¾ cup of the cilantro, and hot water. Slowly raise the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer gently to blend the flavors, about 10 minutes.

Add the kefta, or meatballs, to the sauce and poach, covered, for 30 minutes, turning them midway through the cooking.

Add the lemon juice to the sauce. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer the hot pot to a wooden surface or a folded towel placed on a serving plate and garnish with the remaining ¼ cup cilantro. Spoon the kefta and sauce directly from the pot onto plates, with warm slices of toasted bread for mopping up the sauce.

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