Kefta is the savory spiced ground meat of Morocco, served in meatball form or used as stuffing. Serve the kefta directly from the tagine or pot, with warm slices of toasted bread for mopping up the sauce. In some Moroccan homes where fiery dishes are appreciated, a whole dried red pepper is added to the sauce.–Paula Wolfert
LC Savvy Saffron Water Note
Cookbook author and Mediterranean cooking monarch Paula Wolfert does something in this recipe that comes as something of a surprise to us. She soaks saffron threads in hot water. The elixir, which Wolfert dubs “saffron water,” summons more of the spice’s aroma and flavor than simply crumbling a few dry strands into a dish, she explains. Given its seeming superpowers, saffron water isn’t just a clever cooking technique, it’s a savvy spendthrift tactic when you consider the justifiably steep price of a stash of saffron. “In fact,” she continues, “I’ve discovered that if I soak all the ground spices called for in a recipe in a little saffron water before adding them to the dish, their combined flavors are intensified and better distributed.” We don’t know about you, but we intend to do as Wolfert says.
Moroccan Meatballs Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 1 H, 5 M
- Serves 4 or 5
- For the saffron water
- 1/2 teaspoon crumbled saffron strands
- 1 cup hot water
- For the kefta
- 1 pound lean ground lamb or beef
- 3 tablespoons crème fraîche or grated beef suet
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin, preferably Moroccan
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Ceylon
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
- For the sauce
- 1 medium red onion, grated
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup saffron water
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, preferably Moroccan
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 2 to 3 pinches cayenne
- Pinch of ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Make the saffron water
- 1. Dry the saffron strands in a warm, but not hot, skillet. Crush again.
- 2. Soak the strands in the hot water and store in a small jar in the refrigerator for up to a week. (For longer storage–my favorite method–quadruple the recipe quantities above, pour the saffron water into a plastic ice cube tray, and freeze into cubes. Once they are frozen, shake out the cubes and store in a freezer bag. Each cube will be equivalent to 2 tablespoons saffron water or a good pinch of dried saffron threads.)
- Make the kefta
- 3. Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until a paste forms. Shape the mixture into 24 olive-size balls and place on a plate. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
- Make the sauce
- 4. Place an 11- or 12-inch tagine or cazuela or Dutch oven on a heat diffuser, if you have one, over medium-low heat. Add the grated onion, butter, saffron water, spices, salt, 3/4 cup of the cilantro, and hot water. Slowly raise the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer gently to blend the flavors, about 10 minutes.
- 5. Add the kefta, or meatballs, to the sauce and poach, covered, for 30 minutes, turning them midway through the cooking.
- 6. Add the lemon juice to the sauce. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer the hot pot to a wooden surface or a folded towel placed on a serving plate and garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup cilantro. Spoon the kefta and sauce directly from the pot onto plates, with warm slices of toasted bread for mopping up the sauce.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:
- Moroccan Tagine of Lima Beans, Cherry Tomatoes and Black Olives from The Taste Space
- Moroccan Chicken and Rice Soup with Parsnips and Carrots from Soup Chick
- Moroccan Spiced Salmon from Leite's Culinaria
- Moroccan Squash Tagine with Garbanzos and Couscous from Leite's Culinaria
Moroccan Meatballs Recipe © 2011 Paula Wolfert. Photo © 2011 Quentin Bacon. All rights reserved.