Last night The Dude and I went to Morocco. Well, not exactly. We were at home, but our kitchen went to Morocco. We really love Middle Eastern cuisine and The Dude had purchased a new Anouar Brahem CD, so it seemed like the perfect night for some lovely, comforting Kefta Mahchiya, which is stuffed meatballs with dried fruit in sweet onion sauce. This recipe comes courtesy of an amazing cookbook, Cooking at the Kasbah by Kitty Morse. It’s an awesome little book filled with Moroccan recipes that are so delicious, and the photography is gorgeous too!
What I love best about Middle Eastern cooking is the mix of sweet and savory, and this recipe fits the bill! I also think that if you are trying this cuisine for the first time then this recipe is an easy introduction. Other than making up the special Ras el Hanout spice blend (which The Dude always has made up and in our pantry), all of the ingredients are easy to obtain and assemble. So, join me in the kitchen as we travel off to exotic Morocco!
- 2 TBSP vegetable oil
- 5 onions (about 2 pounds), thinly sliced
- 1 tomato, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp Ras el Hanout spice blend (recipe to follow)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 10 saffron threads
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 cup water
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup seedless raisins, plumped in warm water and drained, or 1 cup mixed chopped dried fruit
- 1 TBSP honey
- 1 pound twice ground sirloin
- 1 small onion grated
- 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp Ras el Hanout spice blend
- 2 tsp salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted for garnish
To make the sauce: In a Dutch oven or enameled casserole over medium-high heat, heat the oil and add the onions, ras el hanout, cinnamon, ginger, saffron, cloves and water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens somewhat, 10-15 minutes. Discard the cloves. Season with salt and pepper. Add the raisins or dried fruit and honey. Lower the heat to simmer.
To make the kefta: Hardboil 2 eggs and then cool while you are making the kefta. Once the eggs are cool, shell them and cut each egg into 6 wedges. Mix the ground sirloin and grated onion. Tip: I cut up my onion in quarters and put it in my food processor. Pulse until the onion is finely chopped. Add the sirloin and pulse until the meat and onion are incorporated and the meat has a finely ground consistency. In a large bowl combine the meat, bread crumbs, one lightly beaten egg, ras el hanout, 1 tsp salt, and pepper. Mix well, using your hands. Let stand 10 minutes.
To assemble the kefta: Divide the meat mixture into 12 equal portions. Using the fingers of one hand, flatten a portion of the ground meat in the palm of the opposite hand to form a thin patty about 3 inches in diameter. Place a wedge of egg in the center. Fold the meat around the egg and seal the edges. Set aside on a platter. Continue until all of the egg and meat are used.
Set the egg filled kefta in the simmering onion sauce. Do not stir. Cover and simmer until the meat is cooked through, 12-15 minutes.
Make your favorite rice (we love Basmati), and put in a round bowl. Invert onto platter and arrange the cooked kefta and onion sauce around the rice. Dot the rice and kefta with the toasted almonds. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.
Here is a sample of the awesome Anouar Brahem. Wonderful music to have dinner by. Enjoy!
Ras el Hanout Spice Blend
- 1 tsp allspice berries or 1-1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1 whole nutmeg or 2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 20 threads of Spanish saffron
- 2 tsp black peppercorns or 1-1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1-1/2 tsp blade mace or ground mace
- 1 three-inch cinnamon stick or 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp cardamom seeds or 1-1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 two-inch pieces of dried ginger or 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 two-inch piece of dried tumeric or 1 tsp ground tumeric
If using whole spices, put all of the ingredients in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat and toast, stirring constantly until the mixture emits a pleasant aroma, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. (This step is not necessary if using commerically ground spice.) Using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, reduce the ingredients to a fine powder. Sift to remove fibrous elements. Place in a tightly sealed container and store in a cool, dark place, or in the freezer.