Tuesday, February 3, 2015

North African Meatballs with Couscous

One of the best tasting dishes you'll make! A complex blend of sweet and salty that is anything but complex in it's creation. This is one of our favorites!

When you love trying new recipes, you don't repeat meals very often. Which is a shame, really, because I occasionally come across a dud of a recipe (don't worry - I don't share them here!) and wish I had reached for a known winner instead. Since many of my earlier (and, ahem, present) photos leave a lot to be desired, I've tried to pull out favorites from the archives to reshoot. And as a bonus, we get to eat them again!

This is one of those dishes and while the 2nd photo attempt isn't much better than the first, I'm sharing the recipe anyways because it's DARN GOOD. Healthy, inexpensive to make, and simple in it's cooking technique but you would never know it from the taste. It's similar to a Moroccan dish in that it has a complex sweet and salty thing going on. In other words, it's delicious and you should make it.

I don't change it too much from the original because it's got 500+ five star reviews for good reason :)

You can easily sub in ground turkey or lamb instead of the beef!

North African Meatballs with Couscous
For the meatballs:
1 egg
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch ground cinnamon
1 pound ground beef
1/3 cup bread crumbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for cooking

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup pitted and chopped briny olives
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock or broth
1 (14-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
pinch ground cinnamon
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the couscous:
1 cup water
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
1 cup quick-cooking couscous
salt and freshly ground black pepper

First, make the meatballs. In a medium bowl, combine the egg and tomato paste and stir until smooth. Add the cilantro, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon and mix until well blended. Stir in the ground beef and bread crumbs, season with salt and pepper, and combine gently. Do not overmix. Roll into 1 inch in diameter meatballs.

In a large saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat and brown the meatballs in batches until golden on all sides. Transfer once browned to a plate.

Once all the meatballs are browned and removed from the pan, make the sauce. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the hot pan and saute the onion and garlic until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and olives and cook for 1 more minute. Add the white wine and scrape the browned bits off the bottom. Let the wine reduce for 1 to 2 minutes and then stir in the stock, canned tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon. Simmer for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the reserved meatballs to the sauce and simmer for an additional 20 minutes.

While the meatballs are simmering, make the couscous. Bring the water, stock, and oil to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the cranberries followed by the couscous. Cover the pan tightly with a lid, remove from the heat, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve the meatballs and sauce over prepared couscous.

Source: slightly adapted from Melissa d'Arabian


  1. These look awesome, I have them pinned (but still haven't tried it yet!). I should probably do what you're doing too - reshooting some food from my first days of blogging. I've got some absolutely heinous food pics out there from the early days...

    -Julie @ Texan New Yorker

    1. Yes! I have so many bad ones. I've gone back and actually removed some that I decided weren't really "good enough" to pass on so that shortened my stack of really bad photos. This photo is still fairly awful but the recipe is SO GOOD. You'd LOVE it.

  2. sweet taste salty taste that I like. This sense of a tongue wants to swallow more. sweet-and-salty-food

  3. We loved this! I grabbed it on Pinterest. Thank you for sharing it!

  4. Don’t worry about the pics, Aimee, my mouth is watering already! I think I might end up baking the meatballs in the oven just to keep things a tad healthier.


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