Monday, September 17, 2012

Kefta wa Batata (Meatballs and Potatoes)

It's just fun to say - Kefta wa Batata - and almost as easy to make.  Its rich, biting seasonings represent the spice trademark of Arab meat dishes - Cinnamon and Allspice.  This spice blend is what says "Mmmm..mmm Arab" to my mouth but wanting to keep everything in its appropriate place, we didn't appreciate its insidious conquest of western dishes in Arab countries.  We were outraged when hamburgers spiked with these spices were served to us as western fare, horrified when the first Pizza Hut just down the street added cinnamon sprinklings to pepperoni pizza. The Marriott Hotel was the only one to remain true to the hamburger in Amman in our early days!  Importation is all well and good and we could accept it when Arabs took their version of chili, seasoned with cinnamon and allspice from the Chili House restaurant in Amman to Cincinnati and dubed it as a new taste sensation, but when the Amman Fuddrucker's delicious meaty burgers evolved to something less so, with rice as a side dish instead of fries, we were ready to picket the establishment!  Corporate was not far behind us, and the franchise was whisked away back to the U.S. where the fresh beef tasted of it in all it's unseasoned purity. This particular dish though is happily in the Arab domain and features tender meatballs (kefta), stewed in a tomato sauce with potatoes (batata) and garnished with parsley and a spritz of lemon, and rightly so, cinnamon and allspice.

Kefta wa Batata
1 pound ground beef (or lamb)
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
3/4 cup diced onion
2-3 tab. olive oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
salt & pepper to taste
1 large tomato, diced
2 1/2 cups beef stock or
2 1/2 cups water and 2 beef bouillon cubes
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 tab. lemon juice
2 red potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes

-Place ground beef (or lamb), medium onion, cinnamon, allspice,
salt and pepper in food processor.  Process mixture about 30 seconds until meat and onion are smooth.  Form mixture into 1 inch balls, about the size of walnuts.  

-Heat the oil in a medium saucepan.  Add chopped onions and meatballs.  Cook over medium-high heat, turning meatballs gently to brown on all sides.

-Add beef stock or water and boullion cubes to saucepan with tomato paste and potatoes.  Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat, cover and let mixture simmer over low heat until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.  Remove lid and continue to simmer 10 minutes to allow sauce to reduce.

-Stir parsley and lemon juice into stew.  Serve warm over steamed white rice.

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