|As much as I would love a true tagine,
I’d have to store it in someone else’s
Not too long ago, I published a recipe for Moroccan Meatballs that was a huge hit. People wrote about how much they loved the flavors and the simplicity of making the dish. I am pleased to say that today’s recipe will add to your Moroccan repertoire with another easy-to-make meal. This time, I used ground lamb and a host of spices all of which are pantry staples that you likely have on hand. The cherry-sized meatballs are cooked in a tomato sauce to which another handful of spices are added. Then the whole thing cooks away until you add fresh eggs, which poach on top of the dish. In Morocco, the meal would be made in a tagine, the cone shaped casserole so characteristic of North Africa. The dish would then be placed in the center of the dinner table and the diners would scoop out the kefta and sauce and eggs with pieces of bread. As wonderfully communal as that idea sounds, lacking a tagine, I used a big covered sauté pan. That pretty ruled out its going on our dining room table. But it certainly didn’t make my Kefta any less delicious.
Kefta can be made with a mixture of lamb and beef. I used all lamb. The sweetness of the meat is a perfect counterpoint to the aromatic spices you add to it. The original recipe called for fresh ripe tomatoes. I found that a 28 or 32 oz can of chopped tomatoes in puree not only cut back on the labor involved in peeling, seeding, and chopping ripe ones, but at this time of year, there’s no comparison in the taste of a hothouse tomato and their canned-at-the-peak-of- ripeness brethren. The spice mix in the sauce reinforces the spices in the meatballs. And then there are the eggs. What a perfect accompaniment they make! The lovely color contrast adds to the dish’s appeal. The wonderfully runny yolks are perfect to dip a piece of Pita into. And of course, they make this casserole a complete one-dish meal.
I got this recipe off a site called About.com Moroccan food. It was written by Christine (Amina) Benlafquih. Christine married a Moroccan and moved there in 2000. She took up Moroccan cooking with a vengeance learning all she could from her in-laws and friends and writing recipes that had never been written down before. Christine is the mother of 6 children under the age of eleven. Where she found the time to write anything down is beyond me. But I thank her for this wonderful recipe. And I think you will too. It takes all of about 25 minutes to get the dish into the sauté pan or tagine and another 1 hour and ten minutes of cooking time. Here it is:
Recipe for Kefta Makouara, Moroccan Lamb Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Poached Eggs. Serves 4.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
For the Meatballs:
1 lb. (about 1/2 kg) ground lamb (or a combination lamb and beef)
1 medium onion, chopped very fine
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot paprika (or 1/8 teaspoon ground hot pepper)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
For the Tomato Sauce:
1 – 28 to 32 oz can of Crushed Tomatoes in puree
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika or 1/4 teaspoon ground hot pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/3 cup olive oil
3 or 4 eggs
Start Cooking the Tomato Sauce:
Empty a can of tomatoes directly into a large 12-14 inch diameter sauté pan or skillet.
Mix the tomatoes, onions and the rest of the sauce ingredients in Cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. (Note: If using a tagine, place a diffuser between the tagine and burner, and allow 10 to 15 minutes for the tomato sauce to reach a simmer.) Once simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low, just enough heat to maintain the simmer but low enough to avoid scorching. Allow the tomatoes to cook for at least 15 to 20 minutes before adding the meatballs.
Make the Kefta Meatballs
Combine all of the kefta ingredients, using your hands to knead in the spices and herbs. Shape the kefta mixture into very small meatballs the size of large cherries – about 3/4 inch in diameter.
Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce, along with a little water – 1/4 cup (60 ml) is usually sufficient – and cover. Cook for about 40 minutes, or until the sauce is thick.
Break the eggs over the top of the meatballs, and cover. Cook for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, until the egg whites are solid and the yolks are partially set. Serve immediately with crusty peasant bread or Pitas.