As someone who loves a good meal, cooking one, came to me as a natural passion. I belong to a family where meal times consisted of not just food, but also noisy conversation centered around the events of the day and discussing the menu for the next. (ah yes, we are a greedy lot! )

For the most part of my life so far, my contribution in the kitchen was assisting mom and my duties were limited, to chopping veggies and laying the table. Then along came the great Indian wedding, and I was suddenly the queen of my very own kingdom. My curiosity about this magical world, coupled with an enthusiastic sous-chef (my husband, Vineet), led me to take on the challenge of preparing meals on a daily basis, and not succumbing to the convenience of hiring a cook.

This blog is a product of my experiments with food (not all are life threatening :D) for my fellow culinary enthusiasts - especially the newly weds and hungry bachelors and is dedicated to the women who've inspired me in the kitchen;
Aji (s),Ma and Nigella Lawson.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Moroccan Beef Keftas in Tomato-Date Sauce

A couple of weekends ago I was watching this new show on the Food Network called "Jenny Morris Cooks Morocco". Minutes into the show I found myself drooooling over the Beef Kefta Kebabs that she was cooking up, complete with a Tomato-Date Sauce served over a bed of fluffy Couscous... sigh! Food heaven! I'm guessing that the fact that I had skipped lunch that afternoon fueled my imagination and I actually pictured myself weightless and floating through the air toward the TV, much like a Tom & Jerry cartoon!!
But ofcourse, I had to read up on what these gorgeous Kefta's were all about and cook them that very weekend!
Kefta, one of Morocco's most popular streetfoods, are seasoned, spicy meatballs that may be cooked on a grill or also in a pan. I was surprised when I saw that the list of ingredients that went into this dish, aside from the ground meat and tinned tomatoes were very standard pantry staples in my Indian kitchen!
This recipe was so simple and the ingredients so easy to source that it hardly needed any substitution or reinventing from Jenny's original. My only intervention was adjusting (increasing) the amount of powdered spices as I felt the original quantities did little for my Indian taste buds, as well as including chopped mint in the kebabs. In cases like this where there are so many spices going in, I'd encourage you to follow your gut and adjust them to your liking and to use the numbers that I've put down as just a guideline.

Also, I made a big batch of Kebabs (about 30) and froze half to use for later. The sauce on the other hand is quantified for one time use for about 2-3 persons.
Serve these up along with some Couscous  or some steamed brown rice for your next exotic dinner party, or a nice romantic meal for two... and I guarantee you wont care who's looking when you're licking the plates clean! :)

Ingredients - for the Kefta Kebabs: 
(Makes about 30 kebabs)
- 500g ground/minced Beef or Lamb
- 2 medium Onions, finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves of Garlic, crushed
- 1-1/2 tsp ground Fennel seeds (saunf powder)
- 1 tsp Nutmeg powder
- 1 tsp (more if you want it hot!) Red chili powder
- 1 tsp Cumin powder
- 1 tsp Cinnamon powder
- Small bunch coriander or parsley finely chopped
- Small handful of mint leaves, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried mint will also do)
- Salt & Pepper, as per taste

Ingredients - for Tomato-Date Sauce:

- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 med. Onion, chopped
- 3-4 cloves of Garlic, crushed
- 1 tin chopped Tomatos
- 1 tin whole peeled Tomatoes
- 1 handful seedless Dates
- 2 long Brinjals (aka Eggplants), thinly sliced along the length
- 1 tsp Fennel powder
- 1 tsp Cumin powder
- Salt, pepper & dried red chili flakes, as per taste

1.)  To make the keftas, combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well using your hands to ensure even distribution of all the seasonings and shape small scoops of meat into bullet shaped kebabs (see photo above).
If you're making the big batch of 30 like I did, arrange half on a grease proof paper and freeze. Once they harden, you can transfer the kebabs into a ziplock bag and stash them in the freezer.

2.)  Heat some olive oil in a non-stick pan and shallow fry the keftas till they're nice and golden and almost cooked through. Drain on a paper towel and allow them to cool down a little bit.

3.)  Meanwhile, get started on the Sauce. Heat the olive oil in a thick bottomed pan. Add the crushed garlic and the Onions and saute for a couple of mins till they take on a slight golden colour. Add both the tins of tomatoes and the seedless Dates, followed by the Fennel and Cumin powders.

4.)  Lower the heat and allow everything to bubble away for a few minutes while you slice the Brinjals length wise. This admittedly was the most tricky part... so if you are'nt feeling up to the effort, just dice the brinjals into 1 inch cubes and toss it into the sauce. But if you are in the mood, slice them thin enough so you are able to wrap the kebabs in 1 slice.

5.) Once you have all the brinjal "ribbons", wrap a kefta in each and secure if necessary with a small toothpick.

6.)  Gently add the wrapped kefta's to the sauce and simmer for another 6-8 minutes till the keftas are cooked through and piping hot. Season with Salt, pepper and red chili flakes.

Serve over a bed of fluffy couscous or steamed brown rice and garnish with some chopped corainder and mint.

As for the remaining kefta's, my stash came in handy when I had my cousins over for dinner a few days ago. I grilled them up and served them along side some Harissa spiked Greek yoghurt (as a dipping sauce) to make for a delicious appetizer!

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