Wednesday, February 9, 2011

African Meatballs

This is a guest post by my dear friend Candice. We both share a love of cooking, baking, and all things food-related. We're also part of a meal exchange group with two other couples. Every week, we each pick a recipe and quadruple it. Then, we pack up portions to trade. One cooking session turns into four weeknight meals. Genius! When I tasted the African Meatballs that Candice made for this last exchange, I immediately asked her to do a guest post. They're so good!

When Becky first asked me to share my African Meatball recipe, I couldn't be more delighted! For my husband, Matt, and I, this is the only way to eat meatballs. What makes these meatballs so special? Well, for one thing, they are more like a faux-meatball, in the most delicious sense. They incorporate a large quantity of sesame and pumpkin/melon seeds, which help keep the meatballs together, and this also gives them a special flavor that is uniquely satisfying.

Now, I will admit, I've never been a huge fan of meatballs. I hate the way they would make the bread soggy on sandwiches. I didn't appreciate their presence in bowls of Chef-Boy-R-Dee. And I didn't enjoy those greasy fried blobs lurking in my spaghetti noodles. But these African meatballs have changed my mind and they've quickly become one of my favorite ways to use ground meat. Plus, if you're looking to reduce the amount of meat you consume, these meatballs are actually less meaty (and tastier, in my opinion); you will get the savory flavor with the meat, and you get more meatballs too!

So I will stop my proselytizing and get down to the recipe. Feel free to substitute ground pork, chicken, turkey, or lamb for beef (last time I made these, I used a 1/2 pound of pork sausage and a 1/2 pound of beef). I haven't tried it with soy crumbles or any other vegetarian substitute, but I am curious if using bulgur or quinoa would work. You can substitute pumpkin or squash seeds for the melon seeds (I usually substitute roasted and salted pepitas because they are easier to find and they are salty enough that I don't need to add that much more salt to the mixture). Feel free to adjust the amount of water in the sauce, depending on how thick you want it. If you have a cookie scooper, this would be a great time to use it when forming the meatballs.

African Meatballs (Chad)
Also known as "Kanda" (KAHN-dah)
Slightly adapted from "Extending the Table" by Joetta Handrich Schlabach
Original recipe submitted by Thamar Nelimta (of Bitkine, Chad) and Anita Hostetler (of N'Djamena, Chad)
Makes 4 servings.

Meatballs:

1/4 cup green onions, chopped (50 ml)
1/4 cup celery, chopped (50 ml)
4 tablespoons fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped (60 ml)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 lb ground beef (500 g)
Grind in meat grinder, food processor, or blender.

1 cup sesame seeds (250 ml)
1 1/2 cup melon seeds (pumpkin, squash, pepitas, etc.) (375 ml)
Put through food processor or whirl in blender. Add a bit of water if needed to make blending possible. Be careful not to over-blend or you may end up with a butter-like consistency, which makes mixing with the meat a challenge. Combine meat and seed mixtures together.

1 to 1 1/4 teaspoon salt (5-6 ml)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (1 ml)
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
Add to meat mixture. Heat a little oil in a pan or heavy bottomed cast-iron skillet. Form and cook a small meatball. Taste and add more salt to mixture if needed. Form the rest of the mixture into meatballs. Heat more oil in the skillet. Cook meatballs and onion together; brown and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from pan and prepare sauce in same pan.

Sauce:

scant 1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste (50 ml)
1/2 teaspoon salt (2 ml)
1 bouillon cube (omit if using chicken broth)
corn starch, if desired
Saute together in pan. If you like a thicker sauce, you can add a bit of corn starch.

2 cups water (500 ml) (or chicken broth)
Add to pan and bring to a boil. Place meatballs in sauce and cook 10 minutes. Serve alone or over rice, quinoa, or couscous. Meatballs and sauce pair nicely with sauteed garlicky greens (mustard, kale, collards, etc.) or roasted beets (pictured).



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