Kefta Tagine with Herbs, Spices and Lemon

by: Paula Wolfert Serves 4-5

For the kefta:

  • 1 pound ground lamb or beef
  • 3 tablespoons crème fraiche or plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro

For the sauce

  • 1 medium red onion, grated
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup saffron water (dissolve 1/8 teaspoon of ground saffron threads in hot water)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 pinches cayenne
  • pinch of ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 1 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 

To make the kefta:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until pasty.  Form into 24 olive sized balls.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the sauce:

  1. Set an 11-12 inch tagine (or a dutch oven) on a heat diffuser over medium-low heat.  Add the grated onion, butter, saffron water, spices, salt, 3/4 cup of the cilantro, and 1/2 cup of hot water.  Slowly raise the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer gently to blend the flavors, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the kefta to the sauce and poach, covered for 30 minutes, turning them midway through.
  3. Add the lemon juice and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.  Transfer the hot tagine to a wooden surface or a folded towel on a serving plate to prevent cracking.  Garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup cilantro and serve directly from the tagine pot, with warm slices of toasted bread for mopping up the sauce.