Moroccan Lamb Meatballs with Ras el Hanout

Yield: about 4 dozen meatballs


This month, I share my recipe for Moroccan Lamb Meatballs (Kefte), which may also be made from ground beef or even ground turkey. One of my favorite dishes out of all my trips to Morocco were the kefte in tomato sauce topped with an egg and baked in a workaday terracotta tajine at a simple roadside restaurant frequented by truck drivers.

I like to add bulgur wheat, a specialty of the Eastern Mediterranean, for lightness and nutty flavor. For those who prefer not to eat wheat products, substitute cooked brown rice (about ¼ cup raw).

Ingredients (Meatballs):

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat, soaked in boiling water to cover by about 1 inch
  • 2 ½ pounds ground lamb
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes or Turkish maras pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ras el hanout
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • ½ bunch parsley, chopped
  • ¼ bunch cilantro, chopped
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • Blended oil

Ingredients (Sauce):

  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ras el hanout
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes, or 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ bunch parsley, chopped
  • ¼ bunch cilantro, chopped

Directions (Meatballs):

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In the bowl of a mixer and using the paddle attachment, combine bulgur drained of any excess liquid, ground lamb, and egg. Add remaining meatball ingredients and beat again to blend.
  • Cook a small amount of the meatball mix to taste for seasoning. Scoop into roughly shaped balls the size of a walnut. Lightly oil your hands and then roll again to form into smooth, round balls. Arrange on parchment paper-lined half-sheet pans (for easy clean-up) or other large baking pans without crowding. Roast 20 to 30 minutes or until well-browned. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.

Directions (Sauce):

  • In a large Dutch oven or braiser, sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger in olive oil until softened. Add ras el hanout, turmeric, and cinnamon and stir to combine. Cook together 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and about 1 cup water to thin. Bring sauce to the boil and cook over low to medium heat, stirring often.
  • Combine meatballs and sauce, simmer 15 minutes, remove from heat, stir in cilantro and parsley, and serve, or cool and then freeze if desired.