Thursday, December 12, 2013

Palestinian Meatball Soup

I went looking for this recipe thinking of an light Italian broth, tiny meatball, and vegetable type of soup.

This soup does not fit that description at all, what so ever.

This soup is a hearty, warm-your-healthy-bones soup (in other words, not a sick and I want to feel better soup).  This soup is the I spent an hour outside building a snow man with my kids and am freezing kind of soup.  Or, since here in our part of Texas we can't build many snowmen, it is the strong north wind, we're a bunch of wimps, it's 35 degrees out of type of soup.

This soup contains a spice mixture called baharat.  To make the baharat, you need a spice grinder (or mortal and pestle, which I can never figure out how to operate correctly).   The spices in baharat are pretty easy to find, especially if you can buy them bulk somewhere.  The recipe for baharat makes enough for three recipes of this meatball soup.  Make it all at once and set aside (in a tightly sealed container) and save it for next time.

The original recipe calls for freekeh, an ancient Middle Eastern grain.  The first time I made this recipe, I thought I had freekeh, but it turned out to be farro, so I used that instead.  The second time, I searched two stores (including Whole Foods) for freekeh and couldn't find it so I used the red wheat berries I had at home instead.  Both substitutions worked great.  Bulgur is also suggested by the original recipe authors.  Maybe one of these time I will visit a few more stores to attempt to find freekeh.  For now, I am happy with my substitutions, both of which were easy for me to find at Whole Foods.

We all like this soup, especially the meatballs.

This will serve 6 - 8 depending on the size of your eaters.

Palestinian Meatball Soup
adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Baharat Mixture:
1 t black peppercorns
1 t coriander seeds
1 small cinnamon stick, coarsely chopped
1/2 t whole cloves
1/2 t ground allspice
2 t cumin seeds
1 t cardamom pods
1/2 t whole nutmeg, grated

To make baharat:  place all the spices in a spice grinder and grind until a fine powder is formed.  It will keep for 8 weeks in an airtight container.

1 lb ground beef
1 sm onion, finely diced
2 T flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 t ground allspice
1/4 t ground cinnamon
3 T flour
2 T olive oil

2 T olive oil
1 lg onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled if desired and cut into 3/8"cubes
2 celery stalks, cut into 3/8" cubes
1 (14-oz) can diced tomatoes (with their juice)
2 T tomato paste
1 T baharat mixture (see above)
1 T ground coriander
1 cinnamon stick
1 T superfine sugar
1 c cracked freekeh, farro, or wheat berries (red or white)
2 c beef stock
2 c chicken stock
3 1/4 c hot water

chopped cilantro
lemon wedges

To make the meatballs, combine ground beef, onion, parsley, allspice, cinnamon, 1/4 t pepper, and 1/2 t salt.  Mix well with your hands and form into 24- 30 meatballs (or more or less depending on how big  you like your meatballs).  Heat the oil in a dutch oven or soup pot and fry the meatballs over medium heat until golden brown on all sides and cooked through.  Remove from pot and set aside.

In the same pot, add a little olive oil if the pot looks dry.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, scraping the browned meatball bits from the bottom of the pan.  Stir in the carrots and celery and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, baharat mixture, coriander, cinnamon stick, sugar, 2 t salt, 1/2 t pepper, and cook for another minute, stirring frequently.  Stir in the grain (freekeh, farro, wheat berries, etc) and cook for 2 - 3 minutes.  Add the beef and chicken stocks, hot water, and meatballs.  Bring to boil, cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 20 - 45 minutes (cooking time depends on the type of grain you are using), stirring occasionally, until the grain is tender.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve sprinkled with chopped cilantro (don't skip this step.  This dish needs the cilantro) and with lemon wedges on the side (you can step this if you want).

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