I must have at least eight different varieties of rice in my pantry, but even someone of Chinese descent needs to have an alternative… so I made couscous. I haven’t had couscous for ages. It’s super-easy to make, convenient and highly versatile. It can be made plain, used in salads or soups, sweetened for dessert or well-seasoned for a wonderful side dish.
In this recipe, succulent, cumin-spiced meatballs are served in a thick and rich tomato sauce over herby couscous. The dish is easy to make, and packs a wonderful punch in the flavor department. The way I’ve cooked the tomato sauce here is a little unconventional – no oil is used to saute the ginger, garlic, shallots or coriander (cilantro); the tomatoes are simply simmered with the aromatics until thick… you’ve just got to trust me on this one.
A little timesaving tip – the most efficient way of making this dish is to get the tomatoes onto the hob (stove) before prepping any of the other bits and bobs.
MOROCCAN-STYLE MEATBALLS WITH HERBED COUSCOUS
- 800 g (28 oz) tinned (canned) crushed tomatoes or passata
- 1 teaspoon chicken stock paste, such as Better than Bouillon*
- 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
- 2-3 small shallots, finely chopped, divided
- 1.25 cm (½ inch) root ginger, grated, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, divided
- 6 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro), divided
- 4 tablespoons chopped parsley , divided
- 225 g (8 oz) minced (ground) lamb or beef
- 1 good pinch dried chili flakes
- 2-3 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon groundnut (peanut) or olive oil
- 200 g (1 c) couscous
* Better than bouillon is a concentrated paste, which you add water to, to make a stock. If this is not available, use stock cubes or granules to taste.
1. Bring crushed tomatoes and stock paste to the boil in a large saucepan. Let the mixture reduce over a fast simmer for about 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add paprika, half of the ginger, half of the garlic, half of the shallots and 1 tablespoon chopped coriander (cilantro) as soon as you’ve prepped them.
2. Meanwhile, make the meatballs. In a medium-sized bowl, place the the minced (ground) meat with the remaining shallots, remaining ginger, 2 tablespoons coriander (cilantro), 2 tablespoons parsley, garlic, chili, cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Mix with your hands, and then form small meatballs with the aid of a tablespoon measuring spoon. (The mixture should make about 16-17 meatballs). Set aside.
3. After the tomato sauce has had its 40-45 minutes, make the couscous by placing it into a medium bowl (whilst letting the sauce continue to reduce). Pour over just enough boiling water to cover the couscous by about 5 mm (¼ inch). Cover the bowl with cling film (plastic wrap) and let sit until fully absorbed, about 5-7 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium, non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add meatballs and fry until browned on the outside and cooked on the inside, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to the simmering sauce and stir. Check for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
5. Fluff up the couscous, season with salt and pepper, and stir through the remaining chopped herbs. Divide couscous onto plates and top with meatballs and tomato sauce. Enjoy!