Meatball recipe has roots in Africa

Chris Ross
The San Diego Union-Tribune

Evi Aki is a first-generation American, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants. She was on a path to become a doctor when she started a food blog as a creative outlet and used it to explore her African heritage.

“Cooking helped me identify myself and find my way back to my roots,” she writes in the introduction to her new cookbook, “Flavors of Africa.” It’s a collection of her favorite recipes from all over the continent of Africa. Some are family recipes, some are from friends, and others are from her travels.

Aki says African cooking isn’t difficult but requires a properly stocked pantry. The book includes a glossary of ingredients that are used in the recipes.

She says these meatballs can be an appetizer or served for dinner over rice or couscous.

North African Meatballs

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

For the meatballs

1 pound ground beef

2 slices stale white bread, crusts removed and torn into pieces

1 large egg

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Olive oil, as needed

For the sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 large onion, roughly chopped

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

2 (2- to 4-inch) cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons dried currants

1 cup chicken stock

Salt and black pepper, as needed

To make the meatballs, combine the ground beef, bread, egg, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, salt and black pepper in a large bowl. Make sure the mixture is well combined, then roll the meat into golf-ball-size balls.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs just until they have formed a dark crust on the bottom, about 6 minutes. Continue to brown the meatballs for 5 minutes, turning occasionally to brown all sides.

Transfer the meatballs to a plate and set it aside.

To make the sauce, heat the oil in the skillet. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes.

Add the ginger, cumin, paprika, cinnamon sticks and brown sugar. Transfer the meatballs (along with any juices) back to the skillet. Toss the meatballs so that they are coated in the spices.

Add the tomatoes with their juices, currants and chicken stock. Season with salt and black pepper and stir to combine.

Reduce the heat to medium, cover the skillet and simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve with basmati rice or couscous. These can also be eaten on their own.

Reprinted with permission from “Flavors of Africa” by Evi Aki, Page Street Publishing Co.