Autumn Food Slow Cooking Winter Food

Tunisian Meatballs, September 2012


The idea for these Tunisian-style meatballs came largely from Feast, Nigella Lawson’s finest cookbook, and the cookbook that I have spent most time reading over the years. It’s not so much that I use the recipes in it to the letter: more often I look to it for ideas on food pairings, flavour combinations or just for something to read when I’m eating by myself (the writing and photographs are exquisite). I have read most of Nigella’s other books and watched countless hours of her on TV (misrepresentative; read her chapter on funeral food in Feast to see how lightly her TV persona skims the surface) and I have come to think that Nigella is at her best when she is doing ‘foreign’ food: Italian, Indian and Middle Eastern. This recipe is not identical to the Tunisian Meatballs on p. 215 of Feast but it has been largely informed by Nigella’s version (as I imagine many of the recipes I cook have been, in some way or another).

Tunisian Meatballs With Saffron & Herb Cous Cous

For the meatballs:

250g minced beef (or lamb)

2tbsp breadcrumbs

1 egg yolk

1/2tsp honey

1/2 inch of preserved lemon, diced

1 clove of garlic, finely diced

Salt & pepper

1tsp ground cumin

2tsp tomato purée

– Mix all ingredients together with your hands and then shape into small meatballs. Place on a baking tray and bake in a hot oven for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce.

For the tomato sauce:

1 large onion

2 cloves garlic

1/2 inch piece of preserved lemon

1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger

2tsp coriander seed

2tsp cumin seed

1tsp fennel seed

1tsp ground cumin

1/2tsp cinnamon

1tsp honey

4 apricots, finely diced

Several strands of saffron

Several cloves, bashed


1tbsp tomato purée

1 tin of tomatoes (or skinned & diced fresh tomatoes)

400ml beef stock

4 carrots, peeled and sliced into batons

Salt & pepper

Lemon juice

4tbsp chopped fresh herbs, to serve (coriander, mint, parsley)

– Fry diced onion and garlic in butter and oil with the whole spices. Add the chopped carrots and fry further. Add the diced ginger, preserved lemon, apricots and the tomato purée. Add the ground spices. Add the tinned tomato and the stock and bring to the boil. Add a generous knob of butter and a squeeze of lemon. Allow to reduce slightly and gently incorporate the cooked meatballs into the sauce without breaking them and cook gently for a little while longer. Serve with lots of fresh herbs scattered on top.

Caspari napkins from Rosalin’s, Dunville Avenue; water jug is from Ikea


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