The traditional Moroccan recipes for Kefta Tagine tend to use lamb meatballs that they poach in water and then place in a tagine with the other ingredients and then cook over low heat in the tagine pot. For health reasons, I have been trying to cut back a little on all kinds of red meats (can’t give it up entirely because I love meat in any form) so I tried this tagine with chicken kefta/meatballs. Also I didn’t poach them but instead I cooked them a little bit in a non-stick pan for 4-5 minutes before adding them to the tagine. This initial braising in a pan kept their juices sealed in and the outside of the kefta got a slightly crispy texture. I added a couple of sliced zucchinis and some cherry bomb peppers for more texture and spice. I used Moroccan spice mixtures – Harissa Powder and Ras El Hanout (I got these from William Sonoma but you can also make your own mixtures) to flavor the dish – this made for a delicious, yet healthy supper.
1. 3 Chicken boneless and skinless thighs (you can also use ½ lb of ground chicken)
2. 2 medium sized red onions
3. 5-6 cloves of fresh garlic
4. 1 tablespoon of Harissa powder
5. 1 tablespoon of Ras El Hanout
6. 1 tablespoon of freshly ground coriander powder
7. 2 medium sized fresh zucchini
8. ¼ cup pitted olives (I used green and Kalamata)
9. 2 cherry bomb peppers (or any kind of peppers you like)
10. 1/3 cup of jarred tomato sauce (or a small can of tomatoes)
11. 1 egg
12. 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs
13. 1 cup of white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc) or 1/2 cup of white Balsamic Vinegar
14. 1 tablespoon of honey
15. Salt and pepper to taste
16. A few sprigs of mint
17. A few sprigs of flat leaf parsley
18. 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
19. A handful of toasted Pistachio nuts.
1. If you are using chicken pieces, then place them in a food processor and grind the chicken coarsely but evenly and if you are using already ground chicken, then ignore this step.
2. To make the chicken meatballs, place the following ingredients in a mixing bowl: ground chicken, 2 cloves of grated garlic, 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon of Harissa powder, 1 egg, some finely chopped mint and parsley leaves (keep some for garnishing at the end), ½ onion, finely chopped, salt and pepper to taste.
3. Using your hand, mix all the ingredients together and then make little balls/kefta about 1.5-2 inches in diameter.
4. In a nonstick pan, add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and heat it on low heat. Add the meatballs to the hot oil and cook them evenly on all sides for about 4-5 minutes. Do not cook them all the way through because we will cook them completely in the tagine later. Keep these semi-cooked keftas aside and start working on the sauce.
5. Finely slice the 1.5 onions length wise.
13. Remove the seeds of the peppers and cut them in bite sized pieces and add them to the pot and stir.
14. Now add the Ras El Hanout and ground coriander powder, 1 tablespoon of Harissa powder, salt and pepper (to taste), ¼ cup water and stir everything together.
15. Place the semi cooked chicken keftas at the bottom of a ceramic tagine and pour the vegetables and sauce over the keftas and cover the tagine with its lid and place it in the oven for 90 minutes on 275F.
16. After 45 minutes of placing it in the oven, take the tagine out and stir the contents of the pot, place the lid back and let it cook for the remaining times.
17. Take the tagine out of the oven, sprinkle finely cut flat-leafed parsley and some mint leaves on top and serve the tagine while it is still piping hot with some fluffy couscous on the side. If you wish you can also pour a little bit more of extra virgin olive oil on top – but if you are trying to cut back on fat, skip this step. Sprinkle the toasted Pistachio nuts just before serving the dish – they add some extra crunch to the dish!