Tangy Moroccan Meatballs

tangyMM2.jpg

As a newbie blogger, I like to think I’m following all of the blogging etiquette rules out there. (Although honestly, I have no idea… I could be committing some blogger faux pas with every post for all I know… someone give us a heads up!) But one thing I do know – because it’s common sense for one – is that you don’t just copy and paste someone else’s content and share it verbatim as your own. Now, if you’ve read our blog prior to today, you’ll notice that we share a healthy mix of personal creations and recipes that originated with others. When we’re using someone else’s recipe, before sharing it on here, we take care to tweak it a bit to our personal and non-copyright-infringing tastes AND to share the recipe in our own words. What does this have to do with anything? Well, the original inspiration for tonight’s dish was a pin I found on Pinterest. It had a gorgeous picture of meatballs in a tagine and the recipe sounded delicious! As I was getting ready to work on the dish for tonight, I found this recipe from the BBC’s Good Food site – it is WORD FOR WORD the exact same as the blog post I originally saved. Ugh! ūüė°¬†Maybe it shouldn’t bother me so much, but I like following the rules. And then when I went back and looked at my pin, it appears that the picture in the pin is stolen as well! Double ugh!¬†ūüė°ūüė° So I deleted my pin, and we’ll credit the real inspiration instead ūüėė¬†Thanks Good Food!

Anyways, back to the recipe! We love meatballs around here! One of these days I’ll share the meatballs I grew up on – very different from these and just about any others I’ve ever had. [Check out our other Bon Appetit Baby meatballs – from our Sultan Selim Kofte¬†&¬†Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha)¬†to our¬†Thai Turkey Meatballs!] Tonight’s recipe caught my eye because of the unique (to me at least) ingredients – the lemon and the olives! I’m glad it did, because this recipe is one of my new favorites! It’s slightly spicy, but just beautifully bright and tangy from those olives and lemon. Fancy chefs on TV always talk about¬†balance in dishes, and while I don’t always know how to achieve balance, this recipe definitely has it! You’ve got spice and tang and earthiness and just the slightest hint of sweetness. I think this is why I gravitate towards Middle Eastern/North African dishes – they never just hit one note – they’re always multi-faceted. Whatever you call it, these meatballs are a treat! I ate them over pearl couscous (highly recommend), while Selim just ate them plain and was pretty darn happy! I can also see them being delicious with some fresh baked flatbread. Maybe next time? Because there definitely will be a next time for these!

tangyMM.jpg

Tangy Moroccan Meatballs

(Adapted from BBC Good Food)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped – divided
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 large lemon (zested & juiced)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • Generous pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef stock (or lamb if you have access to it)
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, halved
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, roughly torn
Instructions: 
  1. In a large bowl, combine ~ half of the chopped onion, lamb, lemon zest, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and parsley. Using your hands, form small meatballs – roughly the size of a ping-pong ball. Set them aside.
  2. Now, heat the oil in a tagine if you’re cooler than us and have one, or a small dutch oven if you’re not.
  3. Add the remaining onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook for just 2-3 minutes until starting to soften and become fragrant. Top with the saffron and cook just another additional minute.
  4. Add the juice from the lemon, cayenne, tomato paste, stock, and olives and bring to a simmer.
  5. Once the liquid has reached that simmer, lower the heat and gently add the meatballs. Cover and cook on low for 25 minutes. Halfway through, flip the meatballs over.
  6. Remove the lid and raise the heat back to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Toss in the cilantro right before serving.
  7. Serve with couscous or rice.
Serves 4.

Sultan Selim Kofte

sskofte3.jpg

K√∂fte is one of those dishes that calls to mind something slightly different for every person. Apparently, some company in Turkey determined that there are 291 varieties of¬†k√∂fte native to that country alone. (I get my information via Wikipedia’s kofte page, because I can’t read the¬†original article in Turkish – so hopefully it’s not lying to me.) And that’s just within Turkey!¬†K√∂fte (or kofta, kufta, kyuft’a, qofte, cufte, keft√©s, kopta…) is common everywhere from Morocco to Pakistan, and Azerbaijan to Croatia, with so many variations in between.

For Selim, his memories of k√∂fte are just as variable. Think of how varying “American” meatballs can be… there’s variation in meat content (pork, beef, chicken, veal, lamb, turkey, tofu), sauces (marinara, BBQ, mustard, gravy), and cooking technique (crockpot, microwave, baked, fried). K√∂fte is no different, there’s a lot of variability within families, regions, and countries. I think most people will say that traditionally,¬†k√∂fte is charcoal-grilled as it imparts a distinctive smokiness and flavor that’s so unique. Unfortunately, we don’t have a grill, which kind of ruins that plan, so we decided to broil these to approximate that grilled flavor as much as we could. After living and cooking in our Columbia, SC apartment for over 2 years, we finally set off the smoke detector!

For our k√∂fte tonight, we didn’t try to replicate a specific, authentic type of¬†k√∂fte. Instead, we tried to channel our favorite flavors into our own creation. Ally named these¬†k√∂fte after (one or the other of) Selim’s namesakes to differentiate from all of those 291 original Turkish varieties. You can be the judge as to which Sultan Selim Ally is referencing… Sultan Selim I (aka Selim the Grim or Selim the Resolute) who was a fiery tempered ruler who greatly expanded the Ottoman Empire or Sultan Selim II (aka Selim the Blond) who was a well-loved, soft, generous ruler. Our¬†k√∂fte has a spicy taste/temperament but is sure to be well-loved by all, a perfect combination.

29784334256_57d7dd716d_o
Selim, outside of Sultan Selim’s tomb

Sultan Selim Köfte

Ingredients: 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 lb lamb (80/20 – you want some fat here)
  • 1 egg (whisked)
Instructions:
  1. Make the spice mix by combining the spices in a small prep bowl, set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, thoroughly mix the garlic, shallot, and lamb.
  3. Work the spice mix into the lamb slowly, ensuring that there aren’t any clumps of spice and continue working the meat with your hands until well mixed.
  4. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for ~30 minutes.
  5. Now stir in the whisked egg until well-combined.
  6. Using your hands, form into sigara-shaped patties and place on a sheet of foil.
  7. Broil/Grill/Pan Fry: watching carefully until the tops begin to brown and crisp, flipping once to ensure even cooking and charring. (Broilers, grills, and pans are so variable that we don’t want to tell you a specific time and screw up your¬†k√∂fte!) *If grilling, we highly recommend using skewers so as to not lose any¬†k√∂ftes to the flames.
Serves 2-4

Sfiha

sfiha

Yesterday¬†morning before going to the grocery store, we had a pretty standard conversation around here…

“Do you want to pick out a new recipe to try tonight before we go to the store?”

“Duh.”

Selim was perusing one of our favorite books, The World’s Best Street Food, from Lonely Planet. Our friend Kayla gave it to us for Christmas one year. The recipe for sfiha, which are Lebanese meat pies, caught Selim’s eye. From an eyeball at the pictures and the recipe, sfiha reminded him of one of his Turkish favorites, lahmacun. So, we decided to try it tonight.

This recipe does include several ingredients you might not have on hand, but nothing you wouldn’t be able to use again. We had to get a few things. We couldn’t find pomegranate molasses though. This is commonly used in many dishes in countries that were once part of the Ottoman Empire… think Turkish or Lebanese food. Well we couldn’t find pomegranate molasses at the store OR any fresh pomegranates to make our own. So below, you’ll see a non-traditional improvisation. Instead of pomegranate, we used some of our fresh cherries and made a little syrup out of them by squeezing the juice out and reducing it with a touch of balsamic and lemon juice. [Most of the time Whole Foods, international grocery stores, and Middle Eastern markets¬†will have this ingredient, we were just feeling lazy today and didn’t put in that much effort.]

Conclusion? These are delicious! The filling is so flavorful. The more you think about it, the more flavors you notice. Meat! Spices! Mint! Pine nuts! So many tastes!! Ours came out a little greasy. I think the butter in the recipe is completely unnecessary and would definitely leave it out next time. Didn’t ruin the deliciousness though!

Sfiha

Adapted from Lonely Planet’s¬†The World’s Best Street Food

Ingredients:

Dough
  • 1 cup warm milksfihaingredients
  • 1 tsp active yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Filling
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1lb ground lamb
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large tomato, dicedrollingballs
  • 5 large mint leaves, torn
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tsp Balsamic vinegar*
  • 1 tsp lemon juice*
  • 20 cherries, pitted*
  • 2 tbsp butter {I would omit this next time!}
*{Can skip this if you have pomegranate molasses. In that case, use 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses.}
Optional Toppings
  • Additional yogurt
  • Additional pine nuts
  • Feta cheese
  • Lemon wedgessfihacounter

Instructions: 

  1. Set the cup of milk out so it can warm to room temperature. You can check with a thermometer; you want the milk to be ~100 degrees. Once it’s warm, whisk in the yeast. Once the yeast is dissolved, set the bowl aside until it begins to froth and bubble a little bit.
  2. Now mix the other dough ingredients in another bowl. Mix well.
  3. Once the milk/yeast bowl has frothed up, add it to the bowl of a stand mixer with the bread hook attachment. Start the mixer on low and add the flour/etc bowl to the stand mixer bowl. Allow this to work together for ~10 minutes. (Alternately, do this step by hand and knead for 10 minutes.)
  4. Now cover the dough in the bowl with a dry cloth and allow to rise. You want it to double in size. This will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  5. Take a break for awhile or make your filling so its ready when the dough is. The filling can sit in the fridge for awhile if need be.
  6. To start the filling, add the pine nuts to a small pan, so they make one flat layer. Toast over medium heat for only a few minutes. You’ll notice them start to get brown and toasty. It only takes a few minutes… don’t let them burn! Remove from heat and set aside.
  7. Pit and halve cherries. Squish them with the back of a spoon to juice the cherries. Place the juice in a small pan over low heat with the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. It will thicken up after only 5 minutes or so. Once your juice/sauce has thickened, remove from heat.
  8. Combine toasted pine nuts, cherry/pomegranate syrup, onion, tomatoes, garlic, mint, and spices in a food processor. Pulse until they are well-combined.
  9. In a large bowl, combine the above mixture with lamb, yogurt, and tahini. It may seem a little on the liquid-y side (I thought so!), but it’s fine. Refrigerate if you’re still waiting on your dough.
  10. Once dough is ready, roll into small balls between your palms. You want the balls to be fairly small… prune-sized?? Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  11. Flour a dry surface and roll out your dough balls into rough circles.
  12. Place 1-2 tbsp of the meat filling in the center of the dough, depending upon the size of your dough. You want a fairly small dollop, smaller than you might be inclined to use. Pinch up the edges of the dough into corners.
  13. Place little pastries on a cookie sheet that’s either covered with a Silpat mat (greatest invention!) or sprayed with cooking spray.
  14. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. The edges should be golden-brown and the filling should be sizzling.
  15. Enjoy plain or top with a dollop of yogurt, some feta, extra pine nuts, or a squeeze of lemon. sfihaoven
This recipe makes 25-30 portions.