Exploring Puerto Rico

Exploring Puerto Rico
At Cafe Puerto Rico in Old San Juan

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My roots

Every now and then, I find myself craving Moroccan food. I always wonder if it is so because the food is so damn good, or is it because of the first 13 years of my life spent there. Does it ever happen to you to taste a certain dish and not only are instantly transported to a certain time and place, but also evokes distinct emotions? Two food items come to my mind instantly. Canned sardines in spicy tomatoe sauce! Yes, from all food out there, I remember distinctly how everytime my allowance reached a total of 1dh (which is not much at all), it was an opportunity to run to the local grocer and order a small fresh of the oven still steaming bread sliced in half and a can of sardines poured into it along with a local hot sauce called "hrour." Oh, I was in heaven! Believe it or not, I still carry a reserve of canned sardines from Morocco in my pantry (thanks to Whole Foods) and everytime I come across fresh warm bread, I do not let the opportunity pass me to have my favorite childhood sandwich. To think about it, as a child, I actually loved sardines! And boy, it does not take long to bring back a smile on my face. The other food item that comes to mind is the cactus fruit. I think I was the only one in the family to love those prickly suckers. Oh how I would eat those until my tummy would hurt. And the joy to discover that fruit at a grocery store in NYC called "Garden of Eden." The price was horrifying. But the price was nothing in comparison to the memories of childhood they would bring back.

So today, in my memories of my Morocco days and having this dish not too long ago at my sister's in Morocco, actually about this time last year, I am sharing with you one of my favorite dishes:

Kefta Mkaouara (Tagine of meatballs)

This is an easy recipe for the popular Moroccan meatball tagine called Kefta Mkaouara where well-seasoned meatballs are cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. Eggs are optional but a classic addition to the dish. The meatballs can be made from ground lamb, ground beef, or a combination of the two. Use a traditional tagine, but if you don't have one, a deep wide skillet with a lid would do just fine :-)


For the meatballs:
-- 1 lb. (about 1/2 kg) ground beef or lamb (or a combination of the two)
-- 1 medium onion, chopped very fine
-- 2 teaspoons paprika
-- 1 teaspoon cumin
-- 1 teaspoon salt
-- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
-- 1/4 teaspoon red chilli pepper
--  1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
-- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
For the Tomato Sauce:
-- 2 lbs. (about 1 kg) fresh, ripe tomatoes. I used 2 cans of diced tomatoes
-- 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
-- 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
-- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
-- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
-- 1/2 teaspoon red chilli pepper
-- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
-- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
-- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
-- 1/3 cup olive oil
-- 3 or 4 eggs (optional) REALLY MAKES A DIFFERENCE. SO PLEASE USE.

Start making the tomato Sauce: peel, seed and chop the tomatoes or cut the tomatoes in half, seed them and grate them or if you are using canned diced tomatoes, just pour onto the skillet. Mix the tomatoes, onions and the rest of the sauce ingredients in the base of a tagine or in a large deep skillet. Cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. (Note: If using a tagine, place a diffuser between the tagine and burner, and allow 10 to 15 minutes for the tomato sauce to reach a simmer)

Once simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low, just enough heat to maintain the simmer but low enough to avoid scorching. Allow the sauce to cook for 30 minutes before adding the meatballs.

In the mean time, make the meatballs. Combine all of the kefta ingredients, using your hands to knead in the spices and herbs. Shape the kefta mixture into very small meatballs, the size of large cherries – about 3/4 inch in diameter. Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce, along with a little water – 1/4 cup is usually sufficient – and cover. Cook for about 40 minutes, or until the sauce is thick.

Break the eggs over the top of the meatballs and cover. Cook for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, until the egg whites are solid and the yolks are partially set. Serve immediately.

Break some bread, dip and enjoy!!!

Let me know what dishes evoke some of your most wonderful memories.


  1. Kefta bil mat├ęcha!!! miam miam , all time favorite in our house!

  2. Rimi, I won't compare it with the one you make as you're the PRO. But from the pics, does it look like anything you would make?