I will not claim to have any idea how to pronounce “mkaouara” but I do know “kefta”. Gotta love some kefta, aka meatballs! This time they are moroccan flavored, courtesy of World Market, they ras el hanout blend they sell, and the recipe I found on http://peskypeppercorn.wordpress.com/. This recipe fit perfectly – I had purchased the ras el hanout several weeks ago, had lots of tomatoes from the garden, and some ground beef in the fridge, and had been DYING to use them all!
Ras el hanout or Rass el hanout (Arabic: راس الحانوت) is a popular Moroccan blend of spices that is used across North Africa. The name means “top of the shop” in Arabic and refers to a mixture of the best spices a seller has to offer. … There is no definitive set combination of spices that makes up Ras el hanout. Each shop, company, or person would have their own secret combination containing over a dozen spices. Typically they would include cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, peppercorn, and turmeric. Some recipes include over one hundred ingredients….”
Now that we all know about ras el hanout, it’s time to cook! This is a very simple recipe. I think the hardest think was taking the tomatoes from the garden and making passata, a tomato purée, from the tomatoes I had in the garden. I peeled, puréed, and canned the passata the week before using a big crop of San Marzano tomatoes from the garden that had gotten nice and ripe while I was on my Hawaiian vacation. (ALOHA! another story…) You can always get the passata from the store in cans.
Kefta Mkaouara (modified from The Pesky Peppercorn)
For the meatballs
500-600gm minced beef
3 tsp Ras el Hanout
1/2 onion chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 egg to bind
salt and pepper to season
sprinkling of finely chopped parsley
For the sauce
1 tablespoon oil or ghee
1 onion, finely sliced
2 x 400gm cans chopped tomatoes (or equivalent passata)
1/4 – 2 tsp Ras el Hanout (I went for closer to 2 tsps…my Ras el Hanout musn’t have been very spicy, but I could tast it!)
1 tablespoon honey
salt to taste
- Flat leaf parsely or coriander, to garnish
Combine the meatball ingredients together in a bowl. Mix the meat and spices through thoroughly with your hands, add the onion, garlic, and parsley and crack the egg in. Mix the egg throughout the mixture well so that it binds together well.
Then start to form small balls by taking a palm full of the mixture, flattening it out to remove air pockets, and then rolling between your hands to make golf ball sized meatballs.
Now break out your tagine, or in my case if you don’t have one, fake it ’til you make it and put a bowl upside down on top of your dish and call it a “tagine” (hint: all you early Christmas, think tagine. Better yet – THINK LE CRUSET TAGINE!! Ooohhhh….. pretty!!!) But I digress…add a little ghee or oil to the bottom of your pan/tagine, then fry the sliced onion til it’s cooked and golden brown.
Add the tomatoes (or passata); sprinkle in the spices and drizzle over the honey. Give the whole dish a stir to mix the spices through; taste and adjust the seasoning if ecessary. Carefully drop in the meatballs once the sauce is hot.
Put the lid of the “tagine” on (worse comes to worse just cover your pan with heavy duty aluminum foil), and turn the heat down to quite low to let the flavours infuse and the sauce to soak into the meatballs. If the level of liquid in the dish is a bit low, then add some more tomato passata. Now give this 20 minutes or so to simmer and for the meatballs to cook through.
Depending on how much liquid was in the tomatoes, you might need to take the lid off and simmer at a higher temperature for a bit to concentrate the tomato flavors. I had do to this and it was WELL worth the wait!