Moroccan lemon meatballs and herb cous cous

This is one of my all time favourite recipes!  I absolutely love the fresh Moroccan flavours and colours, and of course it is not difficult to make. The recipe for the meatballs originate from my current favourite recipe book, aptly entitled World Kitchen Morocco. We received the book as gift after we returned from a week-long, whirlwind visit to Morocco-a place that I absolutely loved and will return to as soon as the opportunity presents itself.  Some of the main flavours in Moroccan cuisine is cumin, coriander and parsley, and have become essentials in my cupboard. Except for the amazing food, spices and colours, it is filled with friendly people and stunning landscapes and scenery. I will tell you more about Morocco and its fantastic food in other posts.

Typical spice stall in Marrakesh

Typical spice stall in Marrakesh

For now, back to the recipe:

Enough for 4 main portions:

For the meatballs:

1/2 brown onion, finely chopped

400 gram lean mince

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 heaped teaspoon good-quality paprika

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro (coriander)

1 egg

1/2 cup-3/4 cup white bread crumbs

Add the onion, meat, herbs, spices and egg into a mixing bowl. The original recipe suggest using 2 slices of fresh bread and mixing everything together in a blender, but I mix everything by hand and use bread crumbs instead of fresh bread.  You are welcome to mix everything together with a spoon, but I literally use my hands (I realise that the idea of mixing raw eggs and meat by hand might be off-putting for the more squeamish)-you generate a much finer texture for the meatballs by doing so.  Now slowly add just enough bread crumbs to bring everything together, and ensure that your meatballs will stick together.  Once the mix comes together, wet your hands and form the meatballs.  In this case, smaller is better!

Refrigerate until needed (this also helps to keep the meatballs together)

For the lemon and herb sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 a brown onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon good quality paprika

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons fresh, chopped cilantro (coriander)

375 ml water (or stock if you prefer)

lemon zest from half a lemon

juice from half a lemon (approximately 2 tablespoons)

Heat the olive oil and butter together in a pot over moderate heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Now add the paprika, cumin and turmeric and fry for another minute. Add the fresh coriander and water and bring to boil.  Once the mixture is boiling, gently place your meatballs in the pot with a spoon, turn down the heat to simmer, and place the lid on the pot. Let it simmer gently without stirring for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes add, the lemon zest and juice and simmer for another 5 minutes. The original recipe adds preserved lemon (as pictured here. I made a batch last year, and will share the recipe later), and suggests serving the meatballs with fresh, crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

For the cous cous:

1 cup cous cous, made according to instruction

1 cup frozen peas, blanched

2 tablespoons fresh, chopped parsley

salt to taste

2 fresh chillies (optional)

Once your cous cous is prepared, add the peas and parsley. Again, you can add anything you like to this, but I added these ingredients specifically for colour. I use plain, supermarket cous cous to which you add boiling water, let it steam for 5 minutes whilst blanching my peas separately. Once done, mix and serve with the meatballs and a generous serving of sauce.

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