Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine

Wow, has this girl ever been delinquent. “Update Blog” has been on my google tasks list forever and ever, but somehow this has fallen through the cracks. Since my Superbowl post, I have turned 25 (yay, maybe?) and, perhaps as a result,  have also been trying to make some big life decisions. I have definitely been cooking up a storm as a means of zoning out and soul searching, yet somehow nothing has ended up online. But right now, I’m on the MegaBus back to New York from a hit-and-run trip to Boston. After listening to the NPR Food Podcast and an episode of The Splendid Table (pronounced spuh-lehndid), I’ve realized that the abundant free WiFi and the 2+ hours left on my trip back to NYC gives me little to no excuse not to get back in the game. So now, as I sit here on the top deck of an overheated bus, surrounded by sleeping comrades left and right and with the gorgeous voice of Jeff Tweedy piping through my headphones, I give you meatballs.

This recipe, which was in the January 2010 issue of Bon Appetit, immediately caught my eye, mostly due to the sheer volume of spices that it contains. For me, that was really the selling point. If you know me, you probably know that Jojo’s Kitchen is also Kiki’s Kitchen–I live with my older sister. She’s getting married this October, which will mean that when our lease is up in July, our roomie-hood will come to an end. Despite its diminutive size, our kitchen is surprisingly well-stocked. We have two really full spice racks–one on our counter and one on the wall. I’ve made it sort of a mission of mine that by the time we move out, that I need to use up as many of these spices as possible. (On a side note–you really shouldn’t keep spices for too long anyway. They really lose their oomph. And just think about how tasty your food can be with a little dash of this and that!)

Anyway, when I saw this recipe, I knew that I had to make it. Not only was it going to further me along in what we have come to call the “spice challenge” in my apartment; it also just looked amazing. Even better, in spite of the almost dauntingly long list of ingredients, the only items I didn’t have on hand were ground beef, cilantro, and spinach. (This is where I put in my plug for building up your own spice rack–even complicated-looking recipes become super easy when you realize you already have a lot of what you need on hand.) I have to admit, I omitted the saffron because I didn’t have any, and paying a lot for a pinch of a spice for a Tuesday night dinner is not something that appeals to me.

So, what is a tagine, you ask? It’s basically a stew in which vegetables or meats have been braised. It may look fancy, but if you can make spaghetti and meatballs, there’s really no way that you can mess up this recipe. One note: Real tagines are cooked in a heavy clay pot. I do not have one of these. I used my dutch oven, but if you don’t have one, you can use basically any pot that you can cover and that is also oven-safe.

Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine (adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2010)

Do not let the length of this list freak you out:


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/3 cup finely grated onion
  • 1/3 cup panko (coarse Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

I actually made the meatballs several hours ahead of time, because my friend Iris was coming over for dinner and she was working late that night.

To prep, line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Then mix all of the above ingredients in a bowl. Using about 2 tablespoons of the mixture at a time, roll out some meatballs. Put them on the prepped baking sheet.  No, seriously, that’s it.

Several hours later, I made the stew:

  • 1 tablespoon or so olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 14 or 15-oz can of diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins (or more! They are so yummy.)
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced to 1/2 inch thickness on a slight diagonal
  • 1/4 cup or more of fresh cilantro
  • a 5-oz bag of baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 350. Heat the oil in your ovenproof pot over medium heat. Dump in the onions and saute them for about 15 minutes until they are golden and translucent. Throw in the garlic, cinnamon sticks, and turmeric (and a pinch of saffron if you decide to use it, fancypants). Stir them around for a couple of minutes and then throw in your canned tomatoes and juice.

Bring your stew up to a bubble and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Stir in the carrots, and then ever so gently add the meatballs (so as not to crumble them up) and submerge them in the liquid so they’re covered on top.

Sprinkle the cilantro on top, and then cover the pot and put it in the oven and let it do its thing for about 35 minutes. The meatballs should be cooked through by then. Then scatter the spinach on top of the stew, cover the pot again, and put it back in the oven for about 5 minutes to let the spinach wilt. When it’s all done, carefully stir the spinach into the stew to combine, adjust salt and pepper according to your taste, and you’re good to go. Per the recipe’s suggestion, I served this on top of couscous that I garnished with lemon juice and cilantro.

So that’s all for now–I’m almost back in New York! Hurray. I hope you’ve enjoyed my first post from the road. WiFi on mass transit is great, but I do have to say that spending a Friday night on a bus trip is kind of for the birds.


2 Responses to “Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine”

  1. Mamyte Says:

    The aroma must have been fantastic! I bet your neighbors beat down the door!

  2. Iris Says:

    This was sooooo delicious. I deliberately ate slower than usual to make it last longer. And then had more. And then more the next day thanks to the giant doggy dish I was sent home with =)

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