Maghreb Street Dish

Kefta tagine with eggs and roasted cumin

Variations of this great street dish can be found throughout the Maghreb. It is also often prepared as a snack in the home. In many households, kefta (poached meatballs) are prepared in batches and stored in the refrigerator. Kefta are usually quite fiery, so serve them with plenty of good bread and natural yoghurt to temper their hotness.

For the kefta:

  • 225 g finely minced lamb
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1–2 teaspoons ras-el-hanout (see page 15)
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • leaves from a small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¼–½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 4 eggs
  • 1–2 teaspoons cumin seeds, dry-roasted and ground
  • leaves from a small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • crusty bread and natural yoghurt, to serve

Serves 4

To make the kefta, put the minced lamb, onion, mint, ras-el-hanout, cayenne pepper and parsley in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper and mix well together. Using your hands, knead the mixture and mould it into small walnut-sized balls, so that you end up with about 12 balls.

Fill a tagine or heavy-casserole with water and bring it to the boil. Carefully drop in the kefta, a few at a time, and poach them for about 10 minutes, turning them so that they are cooked on all sides. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Reserve roughly 300 ml of the cooking liquid. (If not using the kefta immediately, transfer them to a plate to cool and store covered in the refrigerator for 2–3 days.)

Add the butter to the reserved cooking liquid in the tagine and bring the mixture to the boil. Stir in the salt and cayenne pepper and drop in the poached kefta. Cook over high heat until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Carefully crack the eggs around the kefta, cover with a lid and leave the eggs to cook in the sauce and steam until they are just set.
Sprinkle the roasted cumin and chopped parsley over the top of the dish and serve immediately with crusty.

Spicy kefta tagine with lemon

Kefta tagines don’t require long cooking times as generally the sauce is made first and the meatballs are poached in it. This popular recipe is light and lemony and delicious served with Plain, Buttery Couscous tossed with chilli and herbs and a leafy salad.

For the kefta:

  • 450 g finely minced beef or lamb
  • 1 onion, finely chopped or grated
  • leaves from a small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1–2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin”
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon each olive oil and butter
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2–3 garlic cloves, halved and crushed
  • a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • leaves from a small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
  • leaves from a small bunch of fresh mint, chopped
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, pips removed
  • Plain, Buttery Couscous”

Serves 4–6

“To make the kefta, pound the minced meat with your knuckles in a bowl. Using your hands, lift up the lump of minced meat and slap it back down into the bowl. Add the onion, parsley, cinnamon, cumin, coriander and cayenne, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Using your hands, mix the ingredients together and knead well, pounding the mixture for a few minutes. Take pieces of the mixture and shape them into little walnut-sized balls, so that you end up with about 16 kefta. (These can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for 2–3 days.)

Heat the oil and butter in a tagine or heavy-based casserole. Stir in the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli and sauté until they begin to brown. Add the turmeric and half the coriander and mint, and pour in 300 ml water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Carefully place the kefta in the liquid, cover and poach for about 15 minutes, rolling them in the liquid from time to time so they are cooked well on all sides. Pour over the lemon juice, season the liquid with salt and tuck the lemon segments around the kefta. Poach for a further 10 minutes.
Sprinkle with the remaining coriander and mint and serve with Plain, Buttery Couscous tossed with chilli and herbs and a leafy salad, if liked.