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Monday, December 21, 2009

Moroccan Spiced Lamb-and-Rice Meatballs

I went through my Japanese and Indian food phase. I am still having some Indian food cravings. But Moroccan has been in my mind a lot lately. I found this recipe that sounded delicious and tried it. It took a long time to make, maybe because it was the first time I was making it, but it’s worth it. This dish fragrant and full of flavor!
I followed the recipe for the most part. The only changes I made were that I used 1 tablespoon of butter instead of 4and ½ tablespoon of salt instead of 1 ½. I opted for making the ras el hanout but it is optional, I bet the dish will taste wonderful even without it.

Moroccan Spiced Lamb-and-Rice Meatballs

1/2 cup medium-grain rice, such as arborio
2 medium onions, 1 quartered and 1 thinly sliced
1 cup cilantro leaves, plus 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup mint leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Scant 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
(substitution = 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon cloves, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg.)

Scant 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Scant 1/2 teaspoon ras el hanout (optional; see Notes)
Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds lean ground lamb
4 1/2 cups water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a small bowl, soak the rice in water for 15 minutes. Drain in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Drain well. 
In a food processor, pulse the quartered onion with the cup of cilantro leaves and the mint, cumin, paprika, allspice, cayenne, ras el hanout and 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt until pureed. Scrape the puree into a large bowl and mix in the ground lamb and rice. 
Line a large baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using lightly moistened hands, roll rounded tablespoons of the meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls and transfer them to the baking sheet. 
Pour the 4 1/2 cups of water into a large, deep skillet. Add the sliced onion, butter, parsley, crushed red pepper and saffron to the skillet and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the meatballs; they will not fit in a single layer. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over moderately low heat until the meatballs are cooked and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Stir gently once or twice halfway through. 
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a large platter. Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl and skim off as much fat as possible. Return the cooking liquid to the skillet and boil over high heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. 
Return the meatballs to the sauce and simmer over moderate heat until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped cilantro and the lemon juice, season with salt and serve with pita bread.

Ras el hanout, a Moroccan blend of up to 30 spices, including ginger, anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, peppercorns and cloves, is available at Middle Eastern markets

Ras el Hanout
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt

Heat up the seeds and peppercorns in a frying pan. Dry fry until aromatic, about a minutes. Place all the ingredients into a food processor/mill and process until smooth.

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