Moroccan Kefta Tagine With Chickpea Meatballs

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As an omnivore, I’ve always felt that vegetarian fare needs better PR. Oftentimes it’s considered an anemic, watered down version of its meatful cousins and that’s really a shame cuz with some aromatic spices and a little extra preparation, I find it’s often as good or even better than its meat-y counterparts. This Moroccan dish is traditionally made with lamb or beef kefta (meatballs) but the aromatic savory tomato sauce also lends itself well to chickpea meatless balls cuz the last step of braising the meatballs in the sauce allows them to soak up all those delicious spices. By toasting the pine nuts you get a richer nuttier flavor from them, the spices give you bursts of flavor, and just coarsely grinding the ingredients gives these meatless balls more of a toothy texture. Since discovering the toothy, meaty vegan meatballs at my favorite sandwich shop I’ve come to the conclusion that meatless balls are not synonymous with “mushy” and I suspect that if I switch the breadcrumbs for torn up pieces of rustic bread the texture will be even meatier. And if you’ve got a hungry crowd arriving for brunch, nothing says, “Welcome to Chez Gekiuma!” like saucy meatballs with tender eggs and crusty bread to sop up all that savory goodness🙂

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Chickpea Meatballs
1/2 c breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 c coarsely chopped portobello or porcini mushrooms
2 tsp (4 cloves) crushed garlic
1 large egg
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl mix together breadcrumbs, paprika, coriander, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Set aside. In a food processor or blender, pulse pine nuts, chickpeas, mushrooms, and garlic till coarsely chopped but not into a paste ~3-4 times.

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Fold chickpea mixture into breadcrumb mixture, it will resemble wet sand. Break egg into bowl and fold in till combined. Wet hands and shape into ~3/4-inch meatballs.

In a tagine or large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat till aromatic but not smoking. Brown meatballs and then remove from pan and set aside.

Tomato Sauce
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small sweet onion, finely diced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp (4 cloves) crushed garlic
1 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp (1 inch) crushed ginger
1 tbsp butter
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 c cherry tomatoes or 2 ripe diced tomatoes
2 tsp Harissa, optional
1 c low-salt vegetable stock (I used Better Than Bouillon Mushroom Base)
3 large eggs
1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves
Crusty rustic bread (I used baguette)

In the same tagine or pan heat remaining 2 tsp olive oil over medium heat till aromatic but not smoking. Sauté onion till tender and translucent ~5 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper, garlic, paprika, cumin, and ginger till aromatic ~30-45 seconds. Add butter, tomatoes, Harissa (if using) and stock then simmer till tomatoes are easily smushed with a wooden spoon. Add meatballs, cover, and simmer for another 10-5 minutes, stirring periodically to turn over meatballs in the sauce. Make 3 small wells in the sauce, crack 1 egg into each then cover and turn off heat for 4-5 minutes, the egg whites will be set while the yolks will be runny yet set on the bottom. If you prefer your yolks fully set/hard, heat the eggs in the pan for 1-2 minutes before turning off the heat and covering. Garnish with parsley and serve with bread. Makes 4 servings.

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**Includes 4 inches of baguette per serving.

About Cam

Enjoying the hippie life in Portlandia :)

2 comments

  1. I’ve friends that are going to love this recipe. It’s wonderful to see how far vegetarian and vegan cooking has come. One no longer needs to give up taste and texture along with meat.

    • Cam

      The texture is toothy but still not that chewiness that you get with a meat meatball. I’m guessing that my local sandwich shop uses hunks of bread as theirs comes close to the texture of meat. I try to be openminded, but I still can’t get behind vegan cheese. The texture is awful.

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