Keftes garaz: Syr­ian meat­balls with cher­ries and tamarind

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - JOAN NATHAN’S

One of the great gifts of the Syr­ian Jews to gas­tron­omy is this meatball dish. Flavoured with tamarind sauce and dried and frozen sour cher­ries, this sweet and sour keftes meatball recipe has been handed down for five gen­er­a­tions in the fam­ily of Melanie Franco Nuss­dorf, a Wash­ing­ton lawyer who loves to cook the dishes of her an­ces­tors from Aleppo. We can tell Melanie’s fam­ily recipe has been up­dated over the years, as it con­tains tomato paste, a rel­a­tively re­cent ad­di­tion to Old World cook­ing. If you can­not find sour cher­ries, frozen dark sweet cher­ries are fine. You can make this dish ahead and freeze. De­frost in the re­frig­er­a­tor overnight, then re­heat in a pan, cov­ered, over medium heat. (Editor’s note: if you can’t find Aleppo pep­per mix equal parts of dried chilli flakes and sweet paprika; larger su­per­mar­kets sell frozen cher­ries.)

Serves: 6-8

IN­GRE­DI­ENTS: Meat­balls

50g pine nuts

1 large onion, diced (about 350g) 2 tbsp olive oil 907g ground beef 2 cloves garlic, minced ¼ tsp ground Aleppo or Marash pep­per ½ tsp ground cu­min 1 tsp ground all­spice ¼ tsp cin­na­mon Salt and freshly ground pep­per to taste 2 large eggs 1 tsp tamarind con­cen­trate 2 tsp tomato paste or ketchup 25g bread­crumbs, fresh

For the sauce

59ml olive oil 1½ onions, diced (165g) 1½ tbsp tamarind con­cen­trate 440g pit­ted sour cher­ries or frozen dark red cher­ries 440g dried cher­ries Juice of 2 lemons 1½ tsp ground all­spice Salt and pep­per 355ml beef stock 355ml red wine 2 tbsp chopped parsley or co­rian­der

METHOD:

Pre­heat the oven to 180°C and toast the pine nuts by stir­ring of­ten in a small, dry fry­ing pan over medium heat, un­til lightly brown, about 5 to 10 min­utes. Re­move to a medium bowl.

To make the meat­balls: sauté the onions in the oil in a non­stick fry­ing pan un­til lightly caramelised, about 20 to 30 min­utes.

Add the onions to the pine nuts, then add the ground beef, garlic, Aleppo or Marash pep­per, cu­min, all­spice, cin­na­mon, salt, and pep­per. Break the eggs into the bowl and stir in the tamarind and tomato paste or ketchup, mix­ing gen­tly with your hands un­til just com­bined, then add just enough bread­crumbs for the meat to be­come clammy.

Take about 1½ ta­ble­spoons of meat and slap the beef sev­eral times into the cen­tre of the palm of your hand to emul­sify. Shape into small meat­balls, about 4cm in di­am­e­ter. Put on two rimmed bak­ing sheets and bake for about 20 min­utes, or un­til done but still juicy. You should get about 36 meat­balls.

While the meat­balls are bak­ing, make the sauce — heat the oil in a medium pan set over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté un­til trans­par­ent, then add the tamarind, pit­ted sour or frozen cher­ries, dried cher­ries, lemon juice, all­spice, salt, pep­per, beef stock, and wine. Sim­mer to­gether for about 20 to 25 min­utes, un­til the sauce is slightly thick­ened.

Mix the meat­balls with the sauce and serve, sprin­kled with chopped parsley or co­rian­der, over rice.

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