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Recipe: Meatballs and Couscous

Meatballs and Couscous

"The fact that Tunisian Jews customarily eat meatballs, couscous and honeyed and orange-scented nutcake to celebrate the Sabbath, doesn't mean you have to be Tunisian or Jewish to enjoy it; nor, indeed, do you need to save it up for a Friday night. I could eat this sweet, root vegetable stew with or without the meatballs, but definitely the couscous, any night of the week.

"Both the meatballs and the stew can be cooked ahead (though I would not combine the two until the reheating stage) and the couscous takes a few minutes and no work. Follow the recipe for lamb meatballs [below], then get on with the sweet, soused stew. As for the couscous, because I have got a couscoussier (and you can admire it on the [back] cover) I use that, soaking the couscous in cold water for 10 minutes then pouring it into the top part of the pan and steaming it over the hot stew for 15 minutes, but you can just as easily follow the package instructions on the couscous or see my alternative method below. If you can't find the rose harissa - though I got mine from the supermarket - then use regular harissa, that fierce chilli and spice paste, and add a drop of rosewater, though only a drop, mind."

--From Feast: Food to Celebrate Life by Nigella Lawson

Meatballs and Couscous - Serves 8-10


For the Vegetable Stew:
  • 2 onions
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 4 carrots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 lb rutabaga
  • 1 parsnip
For the Couscous:
  • 4 1/2 cups couscous
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
To Serve:
  • 1 pomegranate, optional

  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 3 3/4 cups tomato pulp or 2 14 oz cans chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons rose harissa

  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 7 cups boiling water

  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Directions:Begin by making the vegetable stew. Peel and roughly chop the regular onions, and roughly chop the celery. Add them to a food processor with half the carrots, peeled and roughly chopped, and the peeled garlic. Process to a fine mush, or chop it all very finely by hand. Heat the oil in a large pan before tipping in the finely chopped vegetables to soften.Peel and halve the red onion, cutting into half moons, and add to the pan of softened vegetables, stirring around for a few minutes. Peel and roughly chop the remaining carrots and the rutabaga and parsnip. Add them to the pan and let all of the vegetables soften in the oil, sprinkling over the spices and stirring to coat everything. Snip each of the dried apricots with scissors into four and let them drop int othe vegetable stew. Stir in the chopped tomatoes.Add the chicken stock and rose harissa, stirring again, and bring to the boil before putting on the lid and cooking at a gentle simmer for an hour.To cook the couscous without a couscoussier, put all of the ingredients except for the water into a bowl and stir to combine. Boil a kettle, and add the water giving it a stir and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to stand for 15 minutes.Heat the meatballs in the stew, and then fluff the couscous into a bowl with a fork and serve with the vegetable stew. If there are any pomegranates around, scatter the top with the seeds and sprinkle over some freshly chopped cilantro at the same time.Recipe found on page 214 in Feast: Food to Celebrate Life by Nigella Lawson.Aromatic Lamb Meatballs"I find a tremendous amount of use for these: to pick at over drinks..., much as they are here, lowered into a vat of sweet vegetable stew with couscous, piled into warm pita with salad and hummus, or just piled over plain steamed rice and sprinkled with tasted pinenuts and freshly chopped cilantro."--From Feast: Food to Celebrate Life by Nigella LawsonAromatic Lamb Meatballs - Makes 75-78 meatballs


  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced scallions
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice

    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 3 tablespoons semolina
    • 1 egg
    • vegetable oil for frying
    Put the ground lamb into a bowl, finely chip the scallions and add to the meat. Sprinkle over the spices, salt and semolina, and beat the egg, adding to the bowl. Work everything together thoroughly but lightly with your hands, then cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and scoop out small amounts of mixture - imagine a heaped 1/2 teaspoonful, or scant teaspoon - roll them in your hands and place on the plastic wrap-lined baking sheet. Concentrate, as it's easy to make them bigger and bigger as you form them and you do want these toytown small. Have a bowl of cold water beside you to dampen your hands; this helps them not get too sticky for rolling the meatballs.You should make about 75 lamb meatballs in total. I often stretch to 78 but have yet to make it to 80. When you are ready to cook them, heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a skillet. Line another baking sheet with paper towels, and when the oil is hot fry the meatballs in batches without overcrowding the pan. Cook them for about 1 minute a side, or until golden brown all over. Place the finished meatballs on the paper towels. Taste as you go to check they are cooked through: you've got enough.Recipe found on page 441 in Feast: Food to Celebrate Life by Nigella Lawson.
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