North African Lamb Meatballs

plated meatballs

A Lamb and lamb story in my kitchen is always a celeb with a signature style. A pack of lamb mince quickly comes out of the trolley on some weekends; this takes me out of the comfort zone to prepare something for Jim. Sometimes usual (kheema or lamb mince curry) is boring so I had to roll up my sleeves to show off my creative streak with this lamb mince. I believe in keeping a dish simple and classy by following my own rule to do exactly what’s on my mind.

prepared meatballs garnished with cilantro

I have now mentioned several times about my eagerness to know about culture and food habit of different regions. “Where there is food there is no talking” (Moroccan proverb), I will say good food does not remain silent. I can’t keep silent when I’m talking about food. I usually head on to make any meal that is sumptuous, classy and easy to prepare. When I found the Boulettes or North African Meatballs recipe I was thrilled as I had all the ingredients ready in my kitchen. North African cuisine is usually flavorsome includes a combination of local produce of vegetable or fruits with grain and meat. Couscous, olive oil, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, saffron, tomatoes, zucchini, chili peppers all simply define North African cuisine. Meatballs have gained a global popularity.

meatball texture

The pulpy tomatoes form as a base for these meatballs suitably made with very less oil and paired with a host of readily available spices at home. The cooking technique brings in a distinctive flavor to the meatballs creating a superlative experience of good food. I chose to make the meat balls in a paniyaram pan or the unniyappam pan, which is extensively used in the southern part of India. Traditionally it is a heavy bottom pan with cavity, now days it’s available in non-stick versions. I use the non-stick pan and that helped me use very less oil. If you don’t have this pan you can use a simple fry pan to cook the meatballs. Couscous is the staple of North Africa is always served with these meat balls. Whether eaten with steam rice or couscous these meatballs simmered in tomato sauce are endlessly versatile. The recipe calls for the tomato sauce to be flavored with saffron but I skipped it and prepared a fragrant saffron rice to go with it.

meatball prep procedure

meatball cooking


For the meat balls

  1. Lamb mince- 1 and half cup.
  2. Fresh bread crumbs – 1 cup.
  3. Egg – 1no.
  4. Ginger- garlic paste – 2 teaspoons.
  5. Turmeric 1 teaspoon.
  6. Chilli powder- 1 teaspoon.
  7. Coriander powder 1 teaspoon.
  8. Cumin- half teaspoon.
  9. Cloves- 3-5 nos.
  10. Nutmeg – a pinch.
  11. Salt and pepper to taste.
  12. Onions chopped – 2 tablespoons.
  13. Cilantro chopped – 2 tablespoons.
  14. All-purpose flour- for dusting.
  15. Olive oil – 1 -2 teaspoons (to grease the pan).

For the Sauce

  1. Olive oil – 2 tablespoons.
  2. Chopped onions – half cup.
  3. Minced garlic – 3 nos.
  4. Tomato puree of 4 tomatoes.
  5. Cinnamon ground- an inch stick
  6. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Water / vegetable stock– half cup.


  • For the meatballs: – Take a mortar and pestle. Ground cloves and nutmeg with cumin. Keep aside.
  • Take a mixing bowl and combine bread crumbs, egg, onions, cilantro leaves, ginger-garlic, turmeric, chilli powder, coriander powder and the prepared cumin spice mix with ground lamb.
  • Mix the mixture well with your hands to distribute the seasoning evenly. Add salt and pepper. Knead and shape into small lemon sized balls. Keep aside refrigerated. Makes about 24 meatballs.
  • Roll each meat ball in flour and grease the cavity of the pan with oil. (One or two drops of oil is enough).Cook the balls over medium heat until lightly browned for about two minutes.

lighly browned meatball

(If using a fry pan, fry the meat balls in few tablespoons of oil or quarter inch depth of the fry pan, once done, drain the meatballs and blot on a paper towel to remove the oil).

sauce prep procedure

  • Meanwhile prepare the sauce: – Heat oil over a medium high heat in a wide saucepan. Sauté onions until softened taking care not to brown them.
  • Add garlic mince, cinnamon and tomato puree stirring well. Allow the sauce to sizzle till the water content slowly evaporates to a saucy consistency. Season well with salt and pepper.
  • Add half cup of water and allow simmering gently. At this stage add the meatballs into the sauce to simmer over. Do not stir with a spoon or a heavy ladle; instead gently shake the pan to mix the meatballs with the sauce until tender and taking care not to break them.
  • Garnish the meatballs with chopped coriander and serve with Couscous or Steamed rice.

meatballs simmering in sauce.


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