I love Moroccan food for so many reasons, but above all it is how it reflects the exotic spirit of the country itself. Awash with vibrant colors, mind boggling souks, the sun bleached architecture of Tangiers, Marrakesh’s rich red earthiness, and sweeping landscapes stretching from the Atlantic eastward towards the Atlas mountains and southward to the edge of he Sahara desert are breathtaking. Likewise, eating your way through Morocco is a sensory journey through time and cultures that have influenced the very essence of the country and its cuisine. So whenever I am cooking Moroccan meals at home it is always like reliving all those exotic aromas and vivid flavors of Morocco all over again.
Kefta refers to the classic Moroccan dish of traditionally seasoned lamb meatballs simmered in a lemon infused broth as well as the meatballs themselves. Served with steamed couscous and a fiery harrisa sauce, this is a traditional Moroccan meal you will find yourself serving again and again. It is a real crowd pleaser!
I have taken a few liberties in the recipe that follows. I have made the kefta slightly larger than the traditionally smaller and denser size in pursuit of a more tender and juicy finish. I have also tempered the chile heat a bit, but this is a pretty fiery dish in Morocco so feel free to pull out all the stops. You won’t regret it I promise you.
Kefta; Moroccan Meatballs serves 6
For the kefta: makes 24
- 1 lb/450 g ground lamb
- 8oz/ 225 g ground beef
- ½ cup dried bread crumbs
- ¼ cup milk or water
- 1 onion, grated (about 1 cup)
- 1/3 cup minced broad leaf parsley leaves
- 1/3 cup minced coriander leaves
- 1 egg, whisked
- 1 tsp dried mint
- ½ tsp dried marjoram
- 1 tsp ground roasted cumin seeds
- 2 tsp ras el hanout (click here for info and recipe)
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ tsp chile flakes (or more to taste)
- 2 tsp ground red chile powder (or ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne)
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt + more to taste
- 1/3 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup chickpea flour (or all purpose flour)
- ¼ cup olive oil
For the broth:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion grated (about 1 ½ cups)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground toasted cumin seeds
- ¼ tsp crushed saffron threads
- a pinch of turmeric
- 1 ½ tsp sea salt + to taste
- ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp red chile powder or to taste
- 1/3 cup minced broad leaf parsley
- 1/3 cup minced coriander leaves
- 3 whole dried red chile pods
- 2 garlic cloves, whole peeled
- 3 ½ cups water + more as needed
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
Place the ground lamb and ground beef in a mixing bowl and mix them together until combined.
In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs and milk (or water) and stir and set aside to soak for a few minutes. Then squeeze out the milk from the crumbs and scatter them over the meat mixture. Add the onions, parsley, and coriander.
Whisk the egg and pour over the meat mixture.
In a small bowl mix together the mint, marjoram, cumin, ras el hanout, cinnamon, chile flakes, chile powder (or cayenne), and salt and pepper and scatter over all. Then using both hands mix all the ingredients together until completely combined. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least1 hour or over night.
Once the kefta mixture is well chilled measure out 1 ½ oz/ 40 g portions and gently roll each portion into a round meatball/ kefta. Try not to overwork the meat when rolling the balls. This will ensure that the meat will be tender and juicy rather than dense and hard when cooked.
Place the flour in a shallow bowl and gently roll each kefta in the flour until evenly coated. Place them on a parchment lined tray, cover with cling film, and refrigerate for 1 hour. This will ensure the kefta will retain their shape when browning them.
Place a large non stick skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot add half of the kefta and brown them on all sides. Set the browned kefta aside while you brown the second batch and prepare the broth.
Select a pot that is large enough to hold all the kefta in a single layer. Place the pot over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. Swirl the pan until the butter has melted and combined with the olive oil. Add the onions and saute until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Clear a well in the center of the pot and add the tomato paste. Press the paste against the bottom of the pan to caramelize it before stirring the onions and the paste together. Add the ginger, cumin, saffron, turmeric, salt, pepper, paprika, and red chile power. Stir the ingredients together until well combined. Then stir in the parsley and coriander and saute while stirring for a couple of minutes. Add the whole chile pods, garlic, and the water and stir. Once the broth is boiling, lower the heat to a rolling simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
Then gently lower the kefta into the broth using tongs. There should be enough liquid to nearly cover the kefta. If not stir in more water as needed. Once the both returns to a boil reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes without disturbing the kefta. Skim off fat and foam as it collects on the surface and discard. Just before you are ready to serve stir the lemon juice into the hot broth and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Remove the garlic cloves and discard.
When you are ready to serve transfer the kefta to a serving bowl and add the broth and the whole chiles. Or, for individual servings, place 4 kefta per serving into shallow bowls or pasta plates along with broth, omitting the whole chiles.
Be sure to serve plenty of broth with the kefta. Garnish with lemon zest and serve with couscous, and an orange radish salad as pictured.
Place a small bowl of harissa ( click here fore recipe)
on the table which can be dabbed on the kefta for extra spicy heat or stirred into the
The couscous with currants pictured is topped with fried precooked chickpeas and
toasted cumin seeds.