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If you've been following my A.O.K Gourmet posts you know that our family is trying something new this year... or last year(?) - buying some of our meat from local farms. We're almost finished the meat from the half-cow we purchased at the end of last summer and we're making (& learning) our way through the lamb that we bought in the fall. The beef has been fantastic and I've already reserved another cow for this Spring. The lamb... well... it's been a learning experience and I don't know if we would purchase an entire lamb again (maybe we'll split one next time).
When we received our meat and I saw the pounds of ground lamb I was like - "What the heck am I going to make with ground lamb?". As it turns out, there's a whole lot you can do with ground lamb. Spice it, wrap it on a skewer and BBQ for some lamb-kabobs. Lamb burgers (actually very tasty). And some pretty authentic "shepherd's" pie (get it?!).
The other night I was looking through one of my new cookbooks (thanks hun!) - Easy Hot & Spicy (Ryland Peters & Small) - searching for new ideas for all the lamb in my freezer and this recipe for "Kefta" (a.k.a meatballs) stood out. I didn't have all the ingredients (fresh herbs, a red chili, etc.) but I made do with what was in my kitchen and was quite pleased with the outcome.
It would have been really neat if I had an actual tagine to cook the meal in - should have bought one when I visited Morocco way back when... but my new (used... it was a wedding gift for my parents... 30 years ago!) creuset was put to very good use for this recipe. As a my friend Aimee would say - they're great because they don't hold the flavour of whatever you're cooking. You can make a garlicky sauce in the creuset one night and then a creamy chocolate sauce the next morning and you're chocolate won't taste like garlic - which is a very very good thing.
Tagine of spicy kefta with lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter or ghee (clarified butter)
1 onion, roughly chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, halved and crushed
a thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chili, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
a small bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
a small bunch of mint, chopped
freshly squeezed juice of one lemon (I didn't have a lemon, so I used 1/4 cup of "real lemon").
1 lemon, cut into 4 or 6 segments, with pips removed (...again, I didn't have a lemon, so I chopped up some green pepper to add bulk to the tagine)
1 lb. finely ground lamb (or beef)
1 onion, finely chopped or grated
a small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper , or 1 teaspoon paprika
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the kefta:
1. pound the ground meat with your knuckles in a bowl. Using your hands, lift up the lump of ground meat and slap it back down into the bowl.
2. Add the onion, parsley, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and cayenne, and season to taste with salt and black pepper (but don't actually taste anything yet!! haha!!)
3. Using your hands, mix the ingredients together and knead well, pounding the mixture for a few minutes.
4. Take pieces of the mixture and shape into walnut-sized balls, so that you end up with about 16 kefta. (NOTE: These can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept in the refrigerator)
To make the sauce and cook the kefta:
1. Heat the oil and butter together in a tagine or heavy-based casserole dish (or creuset!) Stir in the onion, garlic, ginger, and chili and saute until they begin to brown.
2. Add the turmeric and half the cilantro and mint, and pour in roughly 1 1/4 cups of water.
3. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered for about 10 minutes.
4. Carefully place the kefta in the liquid, cover, and poach the kefta for about 15 minutes, rolling them in the liquid from time to time so they are cooked well on all sides.
5. Pour over the lemon juice, season with salt, tuck the lemon segment (or in my case green pepper chunks) around the kefta. Poach for a further 10 minutes.
Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and mint. Serve hot.
Layla's first comment about the meal? "the meat is dirty"... goodness! This was because of the bits of parsley and other spices in the meatballs.
My initial reaction was that it was really very tasty. I love the mix of garlic, ginger and turmeric... and cinnamon... go figure! Although FULL of flavour, my kefta was not spicy at all (which may have something to do with the missing red chili... maybe!)and had just a hint of lemon (also may have something to do with the fact that I didn't use an actual lemon in the recipe...) which was perfect for me (too much lemon always seems to make things taste... fake). And 10 minutes of poaching was a little too long for the green pepper. So if you're making the same modifications as I did to the recipe - add the green pepper a little later in the cooking process.
One more thing. Okay two more things. One - the recipe was VERY easy (despite the fact that I had to look up "tagine" to make sure I wasn't missing an ingredient!!). TWO - the colour of turmeric?? Does anyone else think it looks lie it's going to glow in the dark or something?