Moroccan Meatballs

An alternative take on classic meatballs, with a Moroccan twist. A simple and quick meal, perfect for midweek, that will add some spice to your cooking repertoire without slaving over a hot stove for hours.

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Christmas has come and gone, and the goose is still fat. Oh dear. Anyone else ready to cut their wrists this January? I have limited willpower at the best of times, but during the festive season, what little willpower I do have, ups and scarpers off on holiday. So here we are (again), trying to lose some poundage. This means that baking in the HC house is out-of-bounds, and dishes are of a much healthier persuasion. No cheese sauces; no pastry; limited carbs… Bloody dull, but when needs must (cries silently into her vegetable soup…).

I’ve made a deal with myself to get blogging more frequently this year, so for about the first month at least, my servings will be on the less calorific side – I can usually manage a month, then it all goes pitifully downhill. Watch this space. So no macaroni cheese; no cheese & bean pastry; no homemade pizza etc etc. You’ll know the diet is over when pudding starts reappearing.

This is a recipe I’ve been making for many years. It’s nigh on impossible to find low fat lamb mince, so if you’re being religious about your healthy eating you might want to buy some lamb leg steaks and blitz them in a food processor. I’m never that religious (can we start to see my problem?) so regular lamb mince does just fine. These meatballs are a lovely Moroccan twist on the usual, and a really quick and simple dish to prepare.

Ingredients (serves 4 adults)

1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp clear honey
zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube
50g breadcrumbs
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
500g lamb mince
cous cous to serve

1. In a large pan heat the oil, then add the onion and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until soft and golden.

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2. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the ground cumin, the honey, lemon juice, tomatoes, stock cube and 300ml of boiling water. In most recipes I would tend to use bottled lemon juice as I always have some in the fridge, but this recipe requires zest, so only a real lemon would do.

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3. Bring the sauce to a boil and then simmer, uncovered whilst you prepare the meatballs.

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4. In a bowl moisten the breadcrumbs with the milk – I often have a small bag of breadcrumbs at the bottom of the freezer but on this occasion I didn’t, so had to blitz a piece of bread. I tend to also freeze the ends of bread for times like this. Saves waste too.

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To the breadcrumbs mix in 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin and cinnamon, the lemon zest and the mince. Season well.

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5. Shape this mix into approximately 32 small meatballs and drop them into the simmering sauce. Cover your pan and simmer for about 5 minutes.

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6. Remove the lid and simmer for about 10 minutes more (timings are fairly flexible here, you can leave it to simmer for longer, just keep an eye that the sauce doesn’t reduce too much – if it does, add a little water and pop the pan lid back on).

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7. Prepare the cous cous by adding hot stock to the cous cous in a bowl, and covering it with clingfilm for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Definitely use stock to make your cous cous, otherwise it’s fairly tasteless.

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8. Serve your Moroccan meatballs on a bed of cous cous.

Moroccan Meatballs - a gorgeous alternative using the spices of Morocco | thehecticcook.com

On that note, I’m off out tonight so the Husband and the kids are getting pizza 😛

Happy cooking!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:5]

Red Wine and Balsamic Vinegar Lamb Casserole

Major blogger fail this time. I forgot to take a photo of the dish before I served/ate it (unhappy face). What a plonker. In my defence, I was dealing with trying to get a meal out, whilst also making a pudding, whilst one child tried to eat a glow stick (those things do not taste good apparently, and stink! But are thankfully not toxic…). The Husband actually carted said child off to wash out her mouth and her hands, whilst trying not to retch at the smell – he’s not very good with bad smells (nappy changing was always entertaining). And that was in addition to the usual chaos going on around me. So I forgot. Sorry. But there were leftovers, so I’ve taken a photo of them, it’s just not as pretty (again, unhappy face).

So this was a slow cooker meal. Have I mentioned my love affair with my slow cooker? In fact, *whispers* I have two! A 3.5 litre and a 6 litre. I tend to use the 3.5 litre more, but the ‘big yin’ is great for whole chunks of meat. A slow cooker can make even the cheapest, toughest meat melt in the mouth. You do a bit of prep, chuck it all in, and then leave it, and your evening meal is made. Magic! And seemingly it only uses the same amount of electricity as a lightbulb, so economical too. Love it!

If you don’t have a slow cooker though, this can be done in the oven. It can either be cooked all day at a lower heat (about 6 hours at 130C), or for a couple of hours at 180C. This should serve about 4 adults.

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Ingredients

700-900g lamb
1 red onion, sliced
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp plain flour
100ml red wine
20ml balsamic vinegar
1 tin chopped tomatoes
300ml lamb or chicken stock
veg of your choice
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp garlic

When it comes to meat, I’m not particularly knowledgable. I tend to go by quantity and price. For this I bought a whole boneless shoulder of lamb. It meant I had to cut it up, and remove a reasonable amount of fat, but as it was a Sunday morning, I could allow the time. You could easily use cubed lamb for ease, and choose leaner lamb if you’re trying to be good (although a bit of fat gives more taste, typically). As it’s being slow cooked, the meat will become tender whatever cut you choose, so choosing a cheaper cut is the bonus of slow cooking.

Once you’ve prepped your meat (if necessary) pop it into a plastic bag with the flour and seasoning. Give it a good shake to coat (this is what will thicken the sauce).

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Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and throw in your meat to brown. I tend to do this in a couple of batches otherwise the pan gets too overcrowded. Once the meat is browned, pop it into your slow cooker (or your ovenproof dish).

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You’ll be left with a pan looking something like this. You want all that meaty goodness that’s stuck to the bottom of the pan, so add another tablespoon of oil, then the onion. Let it start to soften a bit (only a few minutes, the onion doesn’t need to fully soften at this point), then add the garlic for a minute. Add to that the tomatoes, vinegar and wine. For small measures like the vinegar, I have a handy little measuring jug:

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Let the mixture come to boil then simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring it often, until you can feel the bits stuck to the bottom start to loosen. Pour this into the slow cooker or dish, with the veg (chopped into large chunks) and the rosemary, and season. Cook in the slow cooker for 6-8 hours on low, or 4 hours on high – or in the oven as mentioned above.

I served this with lovely buttery mash and green veg. But this is the only photo I have of the finished product:

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It doesn’t look particularly pretty, but it was bloody lovely. Perfect for a wintery Sunday. If you like lamb, definitely give it a go.

Happy cooking!