Moroccan Lamb Meatballs

Ah Marrakech! Looking back it was definitely one of the best weekends of our lives, but on first arrival it was shit scary! We landed at about 7pm and because it was March it was pretty dark already. Our riad had organised a taxi driver to meet us, but we couldn’t find him for ages, so it was fully dark by the time we had our stuff in the car and were hurtling along. The rules on the roads in Marrakech seem to be “Whoever is biggest has the right of way” which makes for a pretty hairy ride! Suddenly the taxi pulled over on the main ring road outside the Medina walls and tried to make a phone call. Having failed, and stabbing at his phone again he got out of the taxi to try again. We started to get a little shifty at this point, he’d offered no explanation and we had no idea what was going on.

He got back in the taxi and we asked him (in a mix of not brilliant French and sign language) if we were going to the riad, and he said that he was trying to call the owner but couldn’t reach him (at least that’s what we think he said – at this stage there was a lingering suspicion that he might have been trying to get a good price for us…). Not a great sign. We carried on and were soon in the maze of streets that make up the medina, most of which looked far too small to accommodate a car. After a few wrong turns we ended up parked in the middle of what looked like a small market, where once again the taxi driver got out of the car to make a phone call. The people out on the streets were trying to open the car doors – one of them tried to usher us towards his riad (not ours!) – and we were sufficiently freaked out by this point. Then the car door opened and a there stood Thierry, the owner of the riad! We were so relieved and felt pretty stupid for getting so anxious.

Stepping into the riad we were blown away. After entering through an ancient but unassuming door off a side street suddenly we were in a candlelit courtyard with trees, rooms off each side, a mezzanine level… it was amazing. We were shown around our suite (first time in a suite!) and then taken through to have dinner which was waiting for us.

Bird's eye view of our beautiful riad - can you spot the tortoise?
Bird’s eye view of our beautiful riad – can you spot the tortoise?

After a starter of red pepper and olive salad a beautiful tagine pot came out, containing what we have tried to recreate (fairly successfully!) in this recipe. Juicy little spiced lamb meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce topped with baked egg and served with cous cous.

Ingredients (for 2 hungry people):

  • 250g lamb mince
  • Baharat or Ras el Hanout spice mix
  • 1 small white onion, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 500g passata
  • 1-3 tsp of harissa – different brands have very different spice levels
  • 2 eggs
  • Cous cous
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Add the sliced onion and pepper to a saucepan over a low heat with a dash of olive oil and leave to soften and sweat down, stirring occasionally. Mix the lamb mince with around 1 heaped tsp of whichever spice mix you are using and about 1/2 tsp of salt, using your hands to really squish it together and distribute the spices around. Then roll into small meatballs, using around 1 tsp of mixture per meatball.

Rotational symmetry optional.
Rotational symmetry optional.

Turn your attention back to the onion and pepper which should be softened by now and add in 1 tsp of the spice mix, the harissa and the passata. Let this heat up and then spread 1 spoonful of it over the base of an ovenproof dish, not much at all, just enough to cover the base. Then add in your meatballs and cover them with the rest of the sauce. Pop this in the oven. Very lightly whisk two eggs with a little salt and pepper, and then once the meatballs have been in the oven for 15 minutes pour this gently over the top. Try to be extremely careful with this or it will fall out in one big blob and won’t cook properly!

Meatball2

Put it back in the oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking and then serve with some lemon cous cous and salad.

Baked meatballs

We made this recipe up after having it that first night in the riad, and we think it’s a pretty successful recreation!

The view from the roof terrace of our riad, one of the best views in Marrakech!
The view from the roof terrace of our riad, one of the best views in Marrakech!
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