Most people like meatballs. In fact, I was at Barnes and Noble the other day and found a book devoted entirely to the subject of cooking tasty meatballs of different types. While I recognize the role of the meatball in providing another way to get meat into someone’s mouth, I don’t believe that you should subject someone to bland food. Because of the this, the meatballs that I tend to make are a variant on kefta; a spiced ground meat mixture. Although it is common to see kefta threaded onto skewers and grilled, simmering them in a broth is a good way to cook them as well and leaves the meat nice and moist. For our meal, we served them over some couscous and with a side of Zucchini and Artichoke Hearts with Charmoula.
There are probably as many different spicing schemes for kefta as there are cooks. I tend to favor cumin, coriander, and onion as the primary flavors in mine, with the white pepper providing a little bit of heat. This dish is a little unusual for me in its lack of chili, which I tend to put in most food. For the meat, I like the taste of lamb, but find that it can be a bit dry if used by itself. Adding some ground pork really helps out by providing some fat.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind while preparing this dish. The first is that, once the meatballs are formed, resting them is quite important. The rest allows the egg and breadcrumbs to bind the meatballs into a cohesive shape, but more importantly, it give the spices time to blend with each other. The second thing to keep in mind is that thoroughly browning the meatballs prior to simmering them is important. Since you are not grilling the meat, browning is an important step to increase the flavor of the meat as well as develop some of the spice flavors. It also helps to set the shape of the meatballs so that they hang tough during simmering.
I think you will be quite happy with the cilantro dressing that we paired with the kefta. In reality, it is a great dressing with almost anything; steamed vegetables, rice, or as a dipping sauce for bread. The cilantro and the pepper provide the primary flavors and are set really nicely against the tart vinegar base. Let us know what you think.
- 8 oz. lamb, ground
- 6 oz. pork, ground
- 1 tsp. garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbs. red onion, minced
- ½ tsp. white pepper
- 1½ tsp. paprika
- 1½ tsp. cumin, ground
- ¼ tsp. ground corriander
- 3 tsp. cilantro, finely chopped
- 1½ tsp. tarragon, finely chopped
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 Tbs. bread crumbs
- In mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except egg and bread crumbs. Knead with hands to thoroughly blend. Add egg and bread crumbs, continue mixing to incorporate.
- Form into balls or patties, depending on preference, about 1 to 2 inches in thickest dimension. Place formed meat balls or patties in refrigerator and let rest for at least 1 hour.
- If simmering kefta, heat about 2 to 3 Tbs. olive oil in a tagine or skillet and brown, turning occasionally. When browned, add about 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock, cover, and simmer over medium heat about 10 minutes or until kefta are cooked through.
- Kefta may also be threaded onto skewers and grilled.
- 2 cups cilantro, finely chopped
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 Tbs. sesame oil
- ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. crushed black pepper
- ¼ tsp. cayenne chili
- 2 Tbs. sugar
- 2 Tbs. minced garlic
- 2 Tbs. kosher salt
- Combine ingredients except salt in a food processor. Sauce will be the consistency of a thin vinaigrette dressing. When combined, gradually add salt to taste.