Harissa Lamb Meatballs with Roasted Vegetable Couscous

Recipe for the Daring Kitchen
Our April 2012 Daring Cooks hosts were David & Karen from Twenty-Fingered Cooking. They presented us with a very daring and unique challenge of forming our own recipes by using a set list of ingredients!

Great Balls of Goodness

I know the name “Daring Kitchen” pretty much sets the stage for a challenge, but this month was an out-and-out “what the holy hell” bit of business. And this all coming from a girl who thinks she could make the basket on the show Chopped cry uncle under the swift work of her knife. My basket ingredients are black chicken, absinthe and air? Bring it, bitches. This challenge, however, was deceptively sneaky in its seemingly simple ingredients that dared at me to be combined. They sneered at me like the cool kids smoking behind the high school, waiting to see if I was indeed as badass as I claimed to be. I had to find a way to marry one ingredient from each of the three categories into an original, cohesive recipe.

  • List 1: Parsnips, Eggplant (aubergine), Cauliflower
  • List 2: Balsamic Vinegar, Goat Cheese, Chipotle peppers
  • List 3: Maple Syrup, Instant Coffee, Bananas

List one and two were totally sexy to me, but three?  Blargh!  I wanted to throat chop list three repeatedly and call it a day.  But then I put my big girl panties back on and got to work.  Although tempted to work coffee into a marinade of sorts (which I’ve done in the past), I thought it’d be interesting to do something sweet and smoky playing the maple syrup off of the chipotles.  I headed to North Africa for inspiration, working the peppers into a zippy pepper sauce called harissa to spice up lamb meatballs.  I then added the maple syrup in place of honey to some couscous tossed with a medley of oven-roasted vegetables seasoned with olive oil, garlic and thyme.  Then, to finish the whole thing off Mortal Combat-style, I spiced up the couscous with some homemade ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice blend that is so gorgeous and lush, you’ll want to put the stuff on your fucking Cheerios.  Don’t laugh.  I’m seriously gonna put the stuff on everything.  Starting with my fingers and ending with my mouth.

The resulting recipe was not only fabulously filling, but completely cohesive (yeah, take that, alliteration!) – not a single ingredient stuck out like a sore thumb, which for me, was the ultimate success.  Challenge complete.  Now, for that black chicken, absinthe and air…

Harissa Lamb Meatballs with Sweet Red Pepper Sauce

2 lbs. of ground lamb
1 tsp. of salt
4 cloves of garlic
4 tbs. of finely chopped parsley
4 tbs. of harissa (recipe follows)
1/2 of a large onion, finely chopped
1/2 c. of bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbs. of olive oil

24 oz. jar of roasted red peppers
1-16.5 oz. can of stewed tomatoes
1 tbs. of red wine vinegar
1 pinch of crushed red pepper
salt to taste
1/2 c. of white wine
1/2 c. of chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Add lamb, garlic, parsley, harissa, salt, and onion into a large bowl and mix well.  Mix in egg and bread crumbs and set aside.  Wash hands well and then wet them thoroughly.  Scoop out about 2-3 heaping tablespoons into your hand and roll into a ball.  Place on a plate and continue to roll meatballs.

To a food processor or blender, add the roasted red peppers, the tomatoes with juice, two tbs. of olive oil, red wine vinegar and crushed pepper.  Pulse until smooth.  Taste for salt and season accordingly.  Pour mixture into a dutch oven and put over medium-low heat to simmer.

Heat the remaining 2 tbs. of olive oil in a skillet.  In batches, brown the meatballs on all sides, making sure to sear them well.  As they finish, add them to the piquillo pepper sauce.  When all meatballs are browned an the skillet is still hot, carefully add the white wine to the pan.  As the wine reduces, scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add the chicken broth and continue to reduce by half.  Pour liquid into the pot with the pepper sauce and meatballs.  Cover dutch oven and place into the oven.  Bake for 40 minutes, checking after a half an hour to make sure that the sauce hasn’t thickened too much.  If it looks as if there is no liquid left, add a 1/2 c. of water, recover and cook for the last 15 minutes.

To serve, remove the meatballs to a dish and top with the roasted pepper sauce.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley or cilantro and serve with the roasted vegetable couscous (see recipe below).

Roasted Vegetable Couscous

1 red onion, diced
1 eggplant, diced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
4 tbs. of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper

1 tbs. of ras el hanout (recipe follows)
3 c. of couscous
3 3/4 c. of vegetable stock
2 tbs. of olive oil
1 tbs. of maple syrup
2 tbs. of chopped parsley
2 tbs. of chopped mint
2 tbs. of golden raisins (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450°.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and divide the veggies between the two sheets.  Drizzle with the olive oil and top with the garlic cloves, thyme and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven until extremely tender, about 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Add the vegetable stock, ras el hanout, maple syrup, olive oil and raisins to a stock pot and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat, add the couscous, stir and cover.  Let sit for 5 minutes off of the heat.  Remove the lid and fluff the couscous with a fork.  Stir in the roasted vegetables, mint and parsley and taste for salt and pepper.  Reseason and serve.

Smoky Chipotle Harissa

1/4 c. of ancho chili powder
1/2 c. of boiling water
2 whole roasted red peppers
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1 tsp. of cumin
1/2 tsp. of ground coriander
1/2 tsp. of ground caraway seeds
1/2 tsp. of dried mint
4 cloves of garlic
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 tsp. of salt
4 tbs of olive oil (plus more for storing)

Add all ingredients to a blender, cover lid with a kitchen towel and blend until smooth.  Store in an airtight container with a layer of olive oil on top of the surface of the harissa to allow the sauce to keep in the fridge.

Ras el Hanout

1 tsp. of ground cumin
1 tsp. of ground ginger
1 tsp. of salt
3/4 tsp. of black pepper
1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of ground coriander
1/2 tsp. of cayenne
1/2 tsp. of allspice
1/2 tsp. of paprika
1/4 tsp. of saffron threads, crushed
1/4 tsp. of cloves
1/4 tsp. of ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. of nutmeg

Mix spices well and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

6 thoughts on “Harissa Lamb Meatballs with Roasted Vegetable Couscous”

  1. They look pretty darned tasty, and love that you described the ingredients as sexy 🙂 Consider this page bookmarked!

    1. Thank you!  Sexy is as sexy does, and that’s all I’m trying to do in the kitchen 😉

  2. This looks fantastic! I went with a maple chipotle combination for one of my dishes too, and I can imagine it working deliciously with the lamb. Yum!

    1. I don't know about you, but that maple was the sticking point for me (no pun intended) in coming up with a recipe. Still, I think that it worked in that I could envision honey in the mix and it was close enough to honey. Fun challenge!

  3. Omg, I don’t know if you get these messages anymore but I made this recipe in its entirety and it was INCREDIBLE. Despite being an avid home cook I’m not sure I’ve ever spent this long in the kitchen (I had to make the ancho chile powder on top of everything else) but everything was so, so good. Worth every minute. The couscous was awesome and I can totally see myself making it for a standalone lunch. The only thing I changed was to use ground pork and chicken bc I couldn’t find ground lamb. Thanks for such an incredible bunch of recipes!!

    1. I do get them! And I love to hear from folks, particularly when they are full and happy and my recipe didn’t set their kitchen on fire!!! This recipe took my friend Karen and I some time to make (kudos on making the ancho powder yourself – we were able to buy ours, thankfully!) but we had a good time puttering around the kitchen and the payoff was killer. I agree about the couscous as well – I’d even stir in some feta or roasted chicken to make it a solid main course minus the meatballs. And I did have success roasting the veggies ahead of time and refrigerating – you could do a huge batch and then have them on the ready to mix into couscous, rice pilaf, pasta (or just your mouth when no one’s looking). xo, Ange

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