Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kefta - a Meatball Tajine with Tomato and Eggs

Show of hands... Who knows what a Tagine (or Tajine) is???

Here's a hint... more than a dish... more than a dish (the hint is I named it twice).

Anyone... Anyone... Katie, not you... Anyone else???

Me either.  Until a couple days ago, when Katie from Thyme for Cooking, the Blog posted a version of this recipe.  Katie has a wonderful blog.  She is a transplanted American, living in France and restoring a French Country home.  Updates on the progress of the restoration, difficulties or challenges (depends on the perspective) of shopping in a different culture, but also wonderful "real" food recipes.  It is always a treat to stop in and visit.

And last week was no exception. Katie posted this recipe (well, a version of it) for a Tagine, cooked in a Tagine.  That's right, a tagine is a recipe, as well as a name for dish that the recipe is made in.

Katie has a beautiful Moroccan Tagine... I have the mid-western version... Corningware...

And who knew?  I had this dish in my basement.  Bought at a garage sale for a dollar.  I bought it for it's presentation possibilities.  Maybe roast a chicken in it.  I can carry a half dozen cupcakes to the neighbors in it.  I had no idea it has a rich history.  Dating back centuries, an authentic North African (Morocco, Algeris, think Rick's Cafe in Casablanca) tagine (or tajine) is a heavy clay glazed cooking vessel.  It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that rests inside the base during cooking. The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving.  

More importantly for me, this dish is also especially useful for low and slow cooking.  Designed to retain all moisture, it is perfect for oven or stove top cooking of less expensive cuts of meat.  You'll be seeing lots more of my Tajine in the future!

As to this recipe, a little research found that it is called a KEFTA.  A spiced meatball recipe, served with cooked tomatoes and eggs poached in the juices from the dish.  My version is true to the spirit, true to the look, but I used spices I had in my pantry, so the spices were more Cajun than Moroccan.

Katie cooks with milder spices than I do.  If you want to see her version, her adaptation for the cookbook, "The Food of Morocco", click HERE.  My meatballs are quite a bit different from hers.  Also, I decided to brown my meatballs instead of cooking them 100% in the Tajine.  I wanted to get some of the rendered fat from the meat out before adding to the stew.  I also added 2 cups of my marinara sauce (I made several batches back when tomatoes where in season and froze them in 2 cup bags).  This is one of those 30 minute meals.  For just a second, I pondered serving this over a pasta, turning Moroccan into Italian.  But, decided against that.  It's my first time, decided to be as gentle as possible to the spirit of the dish.

Here's what I did...

For the meatballs...

1 lb Ground Beef
2 Eggs
1 cup diced sweet Onion
2 TBS "Big Easy in a Jar" (my Cajun Spice mix, a commercial brand can be substituted)
4 TBS fresh chopped Parsley
1/4 cup Bread Crumbs

Mix well and form into meatballs @the size of golf balls.

For the Tomatoes and Sauce...

2 cups Marinara Sauce
1 can Tex-Mex spiced diced Tomatoes (@14 oz)
1 TBS Sugar
1 TBS Cinnamon
2 TBS "Big Easy in a Jar" (my Cajun Spice mix, a commercial brand can be substituted)
1 Sweet Onion, medium dice
1 TBS Olive Oil

For the Eggs...

4 Eggs
Fresh ground Pepper to taste

Spice Mixes I Love!Here's my usual note about my spice mixes.  I make up a batch of 3 favorites every couple of months.  If there is one hint I can pass on to others, it would be to make your own spice mixes.  Mine are all low salt (I am old and fat, I don't need the salt.  But those of you that are young and spry, you don;t need as much salt as you are ingesting).  But, equally important, the fresh spices taste so much richer than the dated little jars in your drawer.  Making them in bulk means they are always around, perfect to add to a cooked egg, season some bread or just to goose up a hamburger.  Of course, commercial brands are available and easily substituted in this recipe, but do look at the salt content in those.  If salt is the number one ingredient... run from em.

If you want to see the formulas I use, click the photo of the spices.

OK, off my soap box and back to the stove...

To cook...

  • Add the oil to the Tajine.
  • Heat over medium flame (or burner unit if you are cursed (as I am( with an electric oven)
  • Add the Onion and cook until tender
  • Add the tomatoes, marinara sauce and spices
  • Simmer covered for 15 minutes
  • While that is simmering, Mix and form the meatballs.  Brown them and then add to the Tomatoes and sauce
  • Space them evenly in the tajine and again cover and simmer for 10 minutes to finish cooking the meat
  • Move the meatballs around to form 4 pockets of sauce.  I had so many meatballs I needed to stack them.
  • Drop an egg in each spot, cover and allow them to poach in the sauce.  Takes about 5 minutes
  • Pepper to taste
Spoon onto a plate with a nice helping of the tomatoes, a couple of the eggs and 3 or 4 meatballs and sing along with Bing and Bob...

While that's playing, here's a few photos to show you what I did...

Thanks Katie... I now LOVE my Tajine too!


  1. Tagines are one of my favorite dishes to make! They are always rife with so much flavor and the meat always comes out so moist. Love Katie's blog and I love this recipe!

  2. I've made keftas before but not in a tangine. We almost bought one when Alexis worked at Williams Sonoma but I thought it was too much of a one uni-tasker and took up too much room.

    Nice job on this one. Good score on the "tangine" for a buck too!

  3. Well done! So glad you discovered it was more than a cupcake carrier....

    Love your spice mixes.... great idea!

  4. I did know what a tangine is, not sure I knew it was the name of a dish, I didn't know Corningware made one, and I do know that this recipe sounds absolutely wonderful. Those meatballs are a "must make" and you know me and eggs with anything. Another bookmarked.

  5. Oh my goodness that looks wonderful!!! I love your Corningware dish! I saw a Tagine at HomeGoods and now I am wishing that I had bought it!

  6. I just tried making some and it was terrific! My family loved it so much. Thanks for sharing.