Boulettes (North African style) might be my new favorite food. In fact, I enjoyed this meal so much that I might break my self-imposed rule—I try not to cook meat for myself unless I’m having guests over—and make them. A new friend invited me over to his cool, Architectural Digest-style apartment to eat these tiny meatballs on Sunday night. I didn’t watch him make the sauce, but I know that he added bright, stewed cherry tomatoes and that he was missing a few of the spices. Despite these missing ingredients (definitely turmeric and maybe even saffron), these boulettes were fan.tast.ic.
Click below the jump for the recipe (and photo), courtesy of the New York Times.
North African Meatballs (Boulettes)
- TOTAL TIME
- 1 hour 15 minutes
FOR THE SAFFRON TOMATO SAUCE
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 and 1/2 cups finely diced onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 inch piece cinnamon stick
- Large pinch saffron, crumbled
- Salt and pepper
- 3 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
FOR THE MEATBALLS
- 1 and 1/2 cups cubed day-old firm white bread
- 1 cup milk
- 1 pound ground beef or lamb
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- Olive oil or vegetable oil
FOR THE COUSCOUS (OPTIONAL)
- 1 cup giant couscous, m’hamsa, or medium couscous
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water to soften, then drained
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
- Make the sauce: Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add onion and cook without browning until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon and saffron, and stir well to incorporate. Season generously with salt and pepper, and allow to sizzle for 1 minute more. Add broth and simmer gently for 5 minutes. May be made several hours in advance, up to a day.
- Make the meatballs: Put bread cubes and milk in a small bowl. Leave bread to soak until softened, about 5 minutes, then squeeze dry.
- In a mixing bowl, put squeezed-out bread, ground meat and egg. Add salt, pepper, garlic, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, cloves, coriander and cumin. Mix well with hands to distribute seasoning. Add 2 tablespoons each of parsley, cilantro and scallion, and knead for a minute. May be prepared several hours in advance, up to a day.
- With hands, roll mixture into small round balls about the size of a quarter. Dust balls lightly with flour. Heat a few tablespoons of oil, or a quarter-inch depth, over medium-high heat and fry meatballs until barely browned, about 2 minutes per side. Drain and blot on paper towel. Simmer meatballs in saffron-tomato sauce, covered, over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until tender.
- Meanwhile, make the couscous, if desired: Cook according to package directions, fluff gently and stir in butter and raisins. Season with salt and cinnamon, and toss well.
- Garnish meatballs with remaining parsley, cilantro and scallion. Serve with couscous and roasted tomatoes if desired.
- 4 to 6 servings, about 36 meatballs.