Mediterranean Meatballs

These Mediterranean meatballs have quickly become a family favourite. Based on this recipe and adapted to take into account the available resources here in Tonga, it is a surprisingly easy, albeit slightly time-consuming, and utterly delicious meal. 

If you’re like me and struggle to multitask in the kitchen, this recipe works best with two people. If you have someone to help you out someone can work on the sauce while the other makes the meatballs. That way nothing gets burnt and dinner is on the table in under an hour. If it’s just you start with the meatballs. Soak the breadcrumbs/bread in the milk for about thirty seconds so that the bread soaks up most of the milk. Put the bread in a bowl with the mince, egg, garlic, spices (salt, pepper, paprika,ginger,turmeric, cumin, cayenne pepper, cloves, ground coriander, and grated nutmeg), and herbs (chopped parsley, coriander, and  spring onions).

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Mix everything together until it’s thoroughly combined. I find it easiest if you just mush everything together with your hands. Form the mince mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball. Spread the flour on a plate and roll the meatballs in the flour until coated.

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Time to make the sauce. Put the oil and onion into a saucepan and cook until the onions are soft. Add the garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon, and saffron and stir together until the mixture is combined then season with salt and pepper. Stir for a minute or two then add the stock. Stir to combine then bring the mixture to a boil. Then turn the heat down to a simmer. The sauce will look pretty thin at this point, but don’t worry it will thicken.

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Heat up some olive oil in a frying pan until shimmery. Fry the meatballs until nicely browned on all sides. As the meatballs finish browning carefully place the in the sauce to finish cooking.

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While the sauce thickens and the meatballs finish cooking, make up the couscous. Make up the couscous according to the directions of the packet. Mine told me to put equal parts couscous and hot water in a bowl then cover it with a plate for 5-10 minutes or until the water is absorbed into the couscous. If you put the raisins/sultanas in at the same time as the hot water they will plump up a bit as the couscous cooks. Around the same time that the couscous is done the sauce should have thickened and the meatballs should be cooked.

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Serve up the couscous and meatballs together, and enjoy.

 

Ingredients (serves about 5)

Meatballs

  • 1 cup of toasted breadcrumbs or shredded bread
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 500g of mince (I used beef because that’s all we had, but lamb would be amazing)
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 1 tbsp of smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp of ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp of ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp of grated nutmeg
  • 4 tbsp of chopped parsley
  • 4 tbsp of chopped coriander
  • 4 tbsp of spring onions
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • olive oil for frying

Sauce

  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 medium brown onions, roughly chopped
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup of tomato paste
  • 2 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of saffron, crumbled
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

Couscous

  • 2 cups of couscous
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1/2 cup of raisins/sultanas

Method

  1. Soak the breadcrumbs/bread in the milk for about thirty seconds so that the bread soaks up most of the milk.
  2. Put the bread in a bowl with the mince, egg, garlic, spices (salt, pepper, paprika,ginger,turmeric, cumin, cayenne pepper, cloves, ground coriander, and grated nutmeg), and herbs (chopped parsley, coriander, and  spring onions).
  3. Mix everything together until it’s thoroughly combined. I find it easiest if you just mush everything together with your hands.
  4. Form the mince mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball.
  5. Spread the flour on a plate and roll the meatballs in the flour until coated.
  6. Time to make the sauce. Put the oil and onion into a saucepan and cook until the onions are soft.
  7. Add the garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon, and saffron and stir together until the mixture is combined then season with salt and pepper.
  8. Stir for a minute or two then add the stock. Stir to combine then bring the mixture to a boil. Then turn the heat down to a simmer.
  9. Heat up some olive oil in a frying pan until shimmery. Fry the meatballs until nicely browned on all sides. As the meatballs finish browning carefully place the in the sauce to finish cooking.
  10. Make up the couscous according to the directions of the packet. If you put the raisins/sultanas in at the same time as the hot water they will plump up a bit as the couscous cooks. Around the same time that the couscous is done the sauce should have thickened and the meatballs should be cooked.
  11. Serve up the couscous and meatballs together, and enjoy
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