Certain dishes are considered working-man’s lunches in the Middle East. They’re foods you find in small shuk restaurants or roadside eateries. Eggy shakshoukah (recipe here), mulukhiyah soup (recipe here), the classic lentil/rice combination, majadra.
The favored meat in the Middle East is lamb and it’s most often prepared in some variation of meatballs, like the popular kibbeh. Now try these savory meatballs in a rich tomato sauce enriched with vegetables and spices. Just delicious.
Kafta, Syrian Meatballs in Rich Tomato Sauce
adapted from CliffordAWright.com
Ingredients for Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon flour
1 carrot, peeled and diced
250 grams – 1/2 lb. tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2- 1 teaspoon cayenne flakes or 1/2 dried red chili
1 quart water
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Ingredients for Kafta:
500 grams – 1 lb. ground lamb
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground allspice berries
1/4 cup parsley, chopped fine
Sauté the onion in the olive oil until softened and golden, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic. Reduce the heat to low, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add carrot, flour, tomato, tomato paste, chile, and water. Stir well. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat and pass through a sieve or puree in blender. Put the sauce in a large skillet that can hold all the meatballs.
Preheat the broiler.
Knead together the ground lamb, flour, egg yolk, salt, cinnamon, white pepper, nutmeg, allspice and parsley. Form meatballs the size of large eggs. Arrange them on a broiling tray and broil until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to the sauce in the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until bubbling furiously, 10 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 10 minutes.
Serve with rice, couscous, or bulgur.
Green Prophet’s Middle-Eastern relishes to serve alongside the kafta:
Photo of kafta by Miriam Kresh.