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Moroccan-style Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Orzo Risotto

Moroccan-style Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Orzo "Risotto"

This was a nice bonus from a leg of lamb I prepared for another occasion. After trimming and boning the leg I had a pile of lean bits and pieces and a good amount of fat, which I put aside in the freezer for another time...which turned out to be a very good move, since I eventually thawed the package, ground the meat and made these tasty gems.We just moved in and I'm setting up my new kitchen, which will be the subject of a post in the near future.

The recipe is a typical pseudo-ethnic product of mine. Of course, if I were a chef and had to market it I'd call it "Moroccan-influenced" instead of pseudo-ethnic, but it's the same thing. Not the real thing and not pretending to be. Developing these recipes involved my usual loosey-goosey procedure: I read a bunch of recipes from disperate sources (cookbooks, files of torn-out recipes, the 'net), then close the books and throw stuff in that's available from my larder and seems to fit the theme.

The result -- a flavorful meatball with curry undertones and a sweetish tomato sauce redolent with cinnamon, saffron and mint -- was a big hit around here, especially paired as it was with the orzo, which was cooked risotto-style using a dilution of the sauce for the broth. Despite the long list of stongly-flavored ingredients in the meatballs none dominates, so the flavor of the lamb survived quite well. I served the dish with pita bread and a fresh salad of mesclun, lettuce, quick-blanched sugar snap peas, baby carrots and baby turnips, topped with sweet, juicy nectarine slices and a crumble of goat cheese.

Moroccan-Style Lamb Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Orzo
serves 4

for the meatballs --
1-1/2 lb ground lamb, 70% lean
2 tsp cumin seed
2 tsp coriander seed
4 T fresh parsley, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 T fresh rosemary, minced
1 egg
1/2 C panko flakes
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp dried onion
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dry mustard
3/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash hot sauce
1 tsp salt

for the sauce --
1 20-oz can peeled tomatoes, cut up
2 medium onions, chopped
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tsp ground coriander
1 cup chicken broth
1 T fresh mint, minced
3 T fresh parsley, minced
2 sticks cinnamon
1/4 tsp crumbled saffron threads
salt, hot sauce to taste

for the orzo "risotto" --
8 oz orzo
1 cup wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup of the sauce
1/2 cup water
1 T butter
1 med onion, chopped

Combine all the ingredients and form into 1-1/4 oz (35 g) balls (there will be about 24). Bake 20 minutes at 350º.

Sauté the onions and garlic in the butter over medium heat about five minutes, until they start to look translucent. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, coriander, broth, mint, parsley, cinnamon sticks and saffron and simmer about 30 minutes. Correct seasoning. Remove the cinnamon sticks and bay leaf before serving. The sauce is better if made a day ahead.

Mix the wine, broth, water and sauce and place in a pan over medium low heat. Sauté the onions in the butter over medium heat about five mintues, until they start to look translucent. Add the orzo and stir to coat with butter. Add about two cups of the liquid mixture and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more liquid as necessary.  When the orzo is almost cooked stop adding liquid and allow it to dry a little, stirring constantly. Correct the seasoning, transfer to a warm bowl and serve immediately.


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How great to see you back, and with a delicious-looking recipe of course!

Welcome back! You've been missed.

Welcome back, Stephen! Looking forward to seeing photos of your new kitchen. Love the North African influence of cinnamon, coriander, allspice and cumin in this recipe. I'm guessing you could make this with ground beef or even ground turkey, if that's what you have on hand.

Welcome back! The meatballs look yummy. I was going to do Swedish meatballs for Paper Chef (hosted by Ilva at Lucullian Delights). Unfortunately, time got away again and I am on the sideline drooling over others dishes :)

So glad to have you back! I missed your posts and recipes tremendously. The lamb looks amazing, but I'm most intrigued by the orzo. I will have to try that.

Woo HOO! Welcome back! And those meatballs look seriously good.

First--glad you're back!!
Second, the meal looks fabulous, I can almost taste it! The Moroccan theme is fresh and the spices are soul satisfying this time of year.
Being in the south now, I'm wondering what type of 'hot sauce' you used in the sauce.
Lastly, are you gonna post any pics of the reno?

Welcome back. Can't wait to see the new kitchen and hear all about it. I'm just starting that journey.

really cool

Yahoo! You're back! My kitchen celebrates.

Congrats on the move.

Welcome back Steven, with a blog as good as this it was well worth the wait. Thank you!


been looking at this for several days..

really looks good..

dont see orzo risotto..

looks like white beans, green pepper onions. tiny bit of celery..



been looking at this for several days..

really looks good..

dont see orzo risotto..

looks like white beans, green pepper onions. tiny bit of celery..


that sounds so delicious! and welcome back - i'm hoping to have a kitchen project of my own so it'll be good to see what you're up to.

Oooh, yummy!

Will have to try this when I get some ground lamb.

Thanks for sharing.

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