Olives Stuffed with Ground Beef in Piquant Tomato Ragout

Olives Stuffed with Ground Beef Recipe

This Tunisian ragout called maraqat al-zaytun is served as a main course, but because of the convenience of the olives and their size, I think the dish lends itself well to a meze table. This recipe requires large pitted olives preserved in a mild brine, not a strongly flavored one. You’ll notice that this recipe calls for a huge amount of parsley—three to four bunches, and you must trust me that that is not excessive. The tabil (pronounced “table” in Tunisian Arabic) is an all-purpose Tunisian spice mix. The word means “seasoning.” Harissa is the most important prepared condiment used in Tunisian and Algerian cooking. It can also be found in tubes in specialty food stores.–Clifford A. Wright

LC A Wise Investment Note

Hey, don’t be put off by the substantial list of ingredients in this recipe, not even for an instant. Invest a little time in this lovely recipe and you’ll be rewarded not only with a satisfying meal, but also with a stash of harissa. A whole cup of the spicy chile paste may, at first glance, appear to be a lot, but once you realise you can brush it on lamb chops, toss it in a tagine, even mix it into mayonnaise, it may not seem like enough. If you’ve found other divine ways to use up that harissa, by all means, let us know in a comment below.

Olives Stuffed with Ground Beef Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 40 M
  • 2 H, 25 M
  • Serves 8 to 12


  • For the tabil
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped and left to dry in the open air for 2 days, or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • For the harissa
  • 2 ounces mildly hot dried guajillo chiles
  • 2 ounces mild dried Anaheim chiles
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for topping off
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground caraway seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • For the olives
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 2 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon Tabil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds pitted large green olives, drained
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons store-bought or homemade tomato paste, mixed with 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon harissa
  • 1 1/4 cups water


  • Make the tabil
  • 1. In a mortar, pound all the ingredients together until evenly crushed. You should have about 1/4 cup. If using fresh garlic, store the tabil in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. If using garlic powder, store the tabil in a small jar with a lid at room temperature for up to several months, although the pungency will decline with time.
  • Make the harissa
  • 2. Soak the chiles in enough warm water to cover until softened, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and remove the stems and seeds. Place in a food processor with the garlic, water, and olive oil. Process until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides.
  • 3. Transfer the chile paste to a small bowl and stir in the caraway seeds, coriander seeds, and salt. You should have about 1 cup. Scrape the harissa into a jar, covering the surface of the paste with a layer of olive oil, and then cover and refrigerate. As you use the harissa, make sure to top it off with a little more olive oil so that the surface is never exposed to the air—this prevents spoiling. Properly topped off with olive oil so bacterial growth cannot occur, harissa can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
  • Prepare the olives
  • 4. In a large bowl using your hands, knead together the beef, parsley, onion, egg, tabil, salt, and black pepper. Stuff the olives with this stuffing, using a small, narrow baby spoon or the handle of a teaspoon.
  • 5. In a casserole, preferably earthenware, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then add the diluted tomato paste, red pepper flakes, harissa, 1 teaspoon salt, and the water. Bring to a boil and add the olives. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the meat is done, about 1 hour.
  • 6. Serve the olives with the sauce. Don’t forget to pass it with cocktail toothpicks if serving as a passed appetizer.
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