One of the things I love about New Zealand is the lamb. The lamb here tastes wonderful. So I was rather pleased when a lamb recipe was thrown my way by this month’s Random Recipes challenge. The theme for this month was “random birthday number” – we had to use our birth date to pick our book – in my case, the 14th book on the shelf, which was Guide de cuisine de l’Étudiant, a French student cook book which was a gift from my French aunt and uncle. It’s a good book because it has a range of straightforward recipes for one, two and groups of people, so covers all sorts of occasions. The random number button on my calculator directed me to page 147, which is a recipe for keftas, or North African lamb meatballs.
Now, the original recipe calls for ras-el-hanout, but I couldn’t find any – I have seen some here, but I can’t remember where, which is obviously super helpful. So I had to make up a substitution based on various articles online. Thankfully it worked out and the meatballs were actually fantastically delicious, although perhaps a little too oniony, so I’ve reduced the amount of onion in the recipe here. What I also love about these meatballs is that they can be fried or baked (I personally preferred baked), and they’d probably work wonderfully on the BBQ as well. I served the keftas with a side of raisin and almond couscous, which is easy to prepare whilst the meatballs are cooking. I’m also submitting these keftas to this month’s Simple and in Season over at Fabulicious Food! since lamb is in season here, and this recipe is definitely super simple to prepare!
Keftas with raisin & almond couscous
Keftas adapted from Guide de cuisine de l’Étudiant
Couscous recipe by Sharky Oven Gloves
I thought there was a little too much onion when I made these, so I’ve reduced the quantity in the recipe given here (so yours won’t look quite as oniony as the photos in the post). Don’t be put off by the number of spices in the recipe – if you’re missing one you can probably get away with leaving it out, particularly if it’s a spice that you don’t often (or ever) use. The skewers are optional, but fun. I’ve read that you should soak skewers in water before using them so that they don’t burn when cooking, but I forgot to do this and didn’t have a problem with burnt skewers.
For the keftas:
½ tsp Cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground coriander seeds
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp turmeric
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
500g minced lamb
1 medium onion
Bamboo skewers (optional)
1½ tsp olive oil (if frying)
For the couscous:
½ tbsp olive oil
150g wholemeal couscous
50g flaked almonds
Knob of butter
Salt & freshly ground pepper
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Fresh parsley, to serve
1. Place the raisins for the couscous in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak whilst preparing the rest of the meal.
To make the keftas:
2. If cooking the meatballs in the oven, pre-heat to 220°C/fan oven 200°C.
3. Add the spices to a large bowl and stir together. Add the lamb to the bowl and mix well with your hands so that the spices are evenly distributed.
4. Finely chop the onion and mix it in with the lamb. Form the mixture into walnut-sized balls, slightly flattening them. Slide the meatballs onto the skewers (this is optional, particularly if baking the keftas, but recommended if frying them or cooking them on the BBQ).
5. If baking the meatballs then place them in an oven-proof dish and bake for about 25 mins until browned all over and cooked through. If frying them, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add the meatballs and fry for 7 mins before turning them over and frying a further 7 mins. If BBQing, you’ll have to figure it out yourself.
To make the couscous:
6. Meanwhile, prepare the accompanying couscous. Drain the raisins and pour the soaking water into a measuring jug. Set the raisins aside. Top the raisin soaking liquid up to 175 ml with water and to a saucepan. Add the olive oil and bring to the boil. As soon as it begins to boil, add the couscous, stir, cover and remove from the heat. Allow the couscous to soak up the liquid (this should take about 10 mins).
7. Toast the flaked almonds until fragrant in a frying pan over a medium heat, taking care not to let them burn. Once the couscous is ready, add a knob of butter and fluff up the grains with a fork. Season with salt and pepper and add the ground cinnamon, raisins and almonds and stir through. Cover to keep warm until the keftas are ready.
8. Serve the keftas immediately, accompanied by the couscous, sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley.