February 11, 2010

Lamb and Prune Meatballs with Moroccan Tomato Sauce


I am writing this dispatch from the thick wooden counter at my local coffee shop. Out the window is an apartment building with snow-lined sills and fire escapes. My toes are a little wet from the walk here and climbing over the mountainous snow piles on the corner (what to do when your beloved winter boots become un-waterproofed?), but there’s a heater underfoot and warmth is on the rise. The barista’s got Os Mutantes on the stereo and all together, I’ve decided that one of the best examples of opposites attract on earth is Tropicalia-meets-winter. This also includes, of course, the cuisine of a warmer, spicier clime, and these meatballs, right here, are the perfect antidote to a Nor’easter.

Lamb and Prune Meatballs with Moroccan Tomato Sauce
Serves 4

for the meatballs
1 pound ground lamb
1/3 cup chopped pitted prunes
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch crushed red pepper

for the tomato sauce
1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes (with juices)
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon grated ginger

whole wheat couscous, to serve

Put the lamb into a bowl and sprinkle over the spices and herbs. Season with salt and add prunes. Work everything together thoroughly with your hands. Scoop out mixture by the tablespoon and roll into balls. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a skillet over moderate heat and cook until meatballs are browned on the outside and opaque throughout. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Add cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne to skillet and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add onion and cook until softened. Add tomatoes to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, breaking up tomatoes with a spoon until sauce is simmering and flavors have developed, about 15 minutes. Return meatballs (and any accumulated juices) to the skillet, give them a good stir, and serve meatballs and sauce over couscous, garnished with cilantro.

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  • Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday: Lamb is great– such a flavourful meat. It’s one of my favourites.
    I love how Moroccan food always has dried fruit, mixing the sweet and the savoury is wonderful on the palate.5 years ago

  • Susan Benner: Thanks for the post, Sarah! Would you adjust the spices for beef… or just choose another recipe? :)5 years ago

  • Anna: This sounds delicious! I think I’ll try it tonight…5 years ago

  • Samantha, I love the fruit, too, and prunes are so underutilized and I think they are wonderful.

    Susan, No, I’d keep everything the same and just swap out the lamb for ground beef. I’m realizing that some olives would be delicious in this tomato sauce, too…

    Anna, Hope you like it! This was my first time cooking with ground lamb, and as Samantha said, it’s so flavorful.5 years ago

  • Anna: I did make it, and we really enjoyed it. I love the taste of lamb, too, but I tried ground pork with this and it worked well. You’re right, olives would make a nice addition to the tomato sauce.
    Thanks for the recipe!5 years ago

  • Anna: Oh…I meant to ask, have you ever made Chicken Marbella from the Silver Palate cookbook? I like to make it for friends, as it has to be marinated overnight and leaves me free to focus on other things when they arrive. I thought of it just now because it also calls for the same sweet & savory combination of prunes and olives. Mmmm…5 years ago

  • Sasa: Have you ever tried that 3M spray stuff? It’s supposed to be good for re-water-proofing – I’ve used it on fabrics with good results but I think it can be used on leather too.5 years ago

  • Anna, Funny you should mention chicken marbella! I made it for my book club last weekend but totally spaced on the “marinating overnight” part. It still turned out okay, but when prepared correctly that is a killer recipe.

    Sasa, Terrific idea! No, I’ve never tried it but will seek it out. Thanks for the tip!5 years ago

  • Susan B: Thanks for your response, Sarah! I’m making this for Valentine’s dinner tonight!5 years ago

  • Chrissy: I made this for dinner tonight. Super easy and delicious! Thanks for sharing5 years ago

  • Rachel (Little Bits of Lovely): This looks delicious!5 years ago

  • Heidi: What I like about eating in…
    I don’t have to fight traffic, crowds or make reservations.
    I enjoy the intimacy of creating something nourishing and working at a slow pace.
    Cooking is always an adventure.
    I’m always in control of the music.5 years ago

  • Priscilla: sounds delicious…I think I will experiment with the cumin/ginger/cinnamonn and tomato combo and let you know how it goes…5 years ago

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When there is very little else left to believe in, one can still believe in an honest loaf of fragrant, home-baked bread.
- Anna Thomas