North African Meatballs

Last weekend, Nick got his third and final deer of the season… and the first buck! This deer was much bigger than the last two, so my freezer is bursting at the seams with meat again. You know what that means… time to cook it!

North African Meatballs Over Couscous

Sometimes we get sick of eating the same old, same old. I’m always cooking new stuff, but it’s often the same kind of stuff. Mexican, Italian, Asian.

When I saw this recipe, I thought, “Oooooh! That’s different!”

I was also pretty excited about the fact that the sauce is chock full of olives– one of my favorite foods!

North African Meatballs

(adapted from See Aimee Cook)

for the meatballs:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 lb ground beef or venison
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil, for cooking

for the sauce:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup green olives, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 (14-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Prepared couscous, for serving (I like Near East brand)

In a bowl, combine the egg and tomato paste and stir until smooth. Add the cilantro, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon and mix until well blended.

NorthAfricanMeatballsOverCouscous1   NorthAfricanMeatballsOverCouscous2

Add the ground meat and breadcrumbs, season with salt and pepper, and mix until just combined (I used my hands). Roll into 1-inch balls.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat, and brown the meatballs on all sides, working in batches. Add more oil as needed. Transfer the meatballs to a plate and set aside.


Wipe any excess meat drippings from the dutch oven. Add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon zest and olives and cook for 1 more minute.


Add the white wine, deglaze the pan, and let it reduce for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the meatballs back into the pot, cover, and let simmer in the sauce for 20 more minutes.

Serve the meatballs over couscous, topped with fresh parsley.

North African Meatballs Over Couscous

The meatballs and the sauce were delicious! I think next time I would bake the meatballs. I’ve made baked meatballs before and they were soooo much easier than browning them in a pan, batch after batch. I loved the spices in this dish… it was definitely different than what we usually eat, but it was a great change!

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  1. says

    Couscous! I’ve just introduced my husband to couscous (he is a little hesitant about trying “weird” foods), and he really liked it. I’ve been trying to find more things to do with it so that I can keep cooking it! This looks so good; nice for a cold winter day.*

    • jessfuel says

      Will do! They are really great! I love Moroccan food as well… I had some AWESOME Moroccan food when I lived in Paris… yum!

  2. says

    Just wanted you to know that your recipe is being featured to today on foodie friday. Will be pinning and tweeting it this week too. Thanks again for being part of our party.
    Stop by and pick up your featured button.

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