North African Meatballs

This ultra-flavorful dish is based upon a version of North African meatballs served in France, where they are called boulettes. Both the sauce and the meatballs are loaded with spices. SO fragrant and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I used ground turkey instead of beef or lamb and increased the garlic. I also forgot to include the raisins in my couscous! We ate it with steamed spinach on the side but it would also be incredible served with roasted tomatoes or roasted cauliflower- or all of the above. Next time!

I’m sharing this dish (belatedly, again) at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #111 this week, co-hosted by Naina @ Spice in the City and Julianna @ Foodie on Board. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 6

For the Saffron Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups finely diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • large pinch saffron, crumbled
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock, vegetable broth, or water

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 1/2 cups cubed day-old firm white bread
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1 1/4 pound ground beef, lamb, or turkey
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ⅛ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 3 T chopped parsley
  • 3 T chopped cilantro
  • 3 T finely chopped scallion
  • all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • olive oil or vegetable oil

For the Couscous:

  • 1 cup giant couscous, m’hamsa, or medium couscous
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • ½ cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water to soften, then drained
  • coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Make the Sauce:

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add onion and cook without browning until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon and saffron, and stir well to incorporate.
  3. Season generously with salt and pepper, and allow to sizzle for 1 minute more.
  4. Add stock and simmer gently for 5 minutes. May be made several hours in advance, up to a day.

Make the Meatballs:

  1. Put bread cubes and milk in a small bowl. Leave bread to soak until softened, about 5 minutes, then squeeze dry.
  2. In a mixing bowl, put squeezed-out bread, ground meat and egg.
  3. Add salt, pepper, garlic, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, cloves, coriander and cumin. Mix well with hands to distribute seasoning.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons each of parsley, cilantro and scallion, and knead for a minute. May be prepared several hours in advance, up to a day.
  5. With hands or a cookie scoop, roll mixture into small round balls about the size of a quarter.
  6. Dust meatballs lightly with flour. (I gently rolled the meatballs in the flour as I lifted them up to place in the pan.)
  7. Heat a few tablespoons of oil, or a quarter-inch depth, over medium-high heat and fry meatballs until barely browned, about 2 minutes per side. Drain and blot on paper towel.
  8. Simmer meatballs in saffron-tomato sauce, covered, over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until tender.

Meanwhile, Make the Couscous:

  1. Cook according to package directions, fluff gently and stir in butter and raisins.
  2. Season with salt and cinnamon, and toss well.

To Serve:

  1. Garnish meatballs with remaining parsley, cilantro and scallion. Serve with couscous and roasted tomatoes, roasted cauliflower, or steamed greens, as desired.

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