Monday, 15 December 2008

Claudia's Tunisian meatballs in tomato sauce

It's 6:30 pm on Sunday night and no plan for dinner! What to do? Something easy and tasty, sure, but nothing that's going to take too long and that will require a trip to the supermarket. Thinking quick, I came up with meatballs, something we haven't had for a while, and a dish for which the Middle East has infinite variations.

In the end I went with this one from Claudia Roden's Book of Jewish Food, my all-time favourite cookbook. With a simple tomato sauce, the real flavour in these show-stopping meatballs is in the meatballs themselves. With aromatics like the fiery chilli and garlic paste harissa, garlic, mint, cinnamon and rose, you know you're in for a treat! Made per the recipe, the chilli paste is more warm glow than burn, but feel free to up the harissa if you like.

One interesting technique I learned from this recipe was to blast the meatballs in the oven for a short time before putting them in the sauce. This serves two purposes: (1) the meatballs get browned without the need for turning and inevitably misshaping them, and (2) the excess fat runs into the oven tray rather than your sauce.
If you don't have powdered rosebuds, don't despair. The meatballs will still be fabulous. If you don't have enough tomatoes, either, then use what you have. In my case 1 small tin of tomatoes, some fresh ones, including cherry toms, and a good slug of leftover passata.

The Young Man adored these and asked why we don't have meatballs more often. Well no need to ask twice; there are several dozen meatball recipes in Book alone, and more than enough time to try each one!

Claudia's Tunisian meatballs in tomato sauce

For the meatballs
600 g mince lamb, beef veal (or pork if it is not an issue with you) or a mixture
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2-3/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander (cilantro)
1 tbsp chopped mint
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp rosebud powder
1/2 tsp harissa, optional

For the tomato sauce
4 cloves garlic, crushed
oil to fry
1 kg tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 800 g can of tomatoes, or a mixture of the two
salt and pepper
2 tbsp tomato puree
1-2 tbsp sugar

1 Mix the ingredients for the meatballs and kneed to a soft paste. Make little balls or ovals the size of a small walnut. Place the balls on a baking sheet and roast them for 7 minutes in the oven at 230 C, until slightly coloured.

2 To make the tomato sauce, fry the garlic in a little oil until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, tomato puree and sugar and simmer for 15 min. The put in the meatballs and simmer another 20 min. Serve with rice.



Reeshiez said...

I made this yesterday for dinner. I only used one tomato because that was all I had and I didn't have rosebud powder and harissa so I omitted those too. I added some coriander powder to the meatballs and some cinnamon powder to the sauce. My husband loved the dish! I did too. I do think that I like the method of frying the meatballs more than browning them in the oven although I know that the oven is the healthier option! Thanks for the recipe. I'm gonna try the lamb with pumpkin today.

Saffron said...

Hi Reeshiez, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

Glad you and your husband enjoyed this. Meatballs are great, aren't they? I bet the coriander and cinnamon were fantastic.

Let me know how you go with the lamb and pumpkin. I thought it was brilliant.