Monday, March 29, 2010

moroccan birthday brunch

I am exhausted today and have not posted for a few days as I feel like I have been cooking, or at least thinking about food since Friday....we had a birthday brunch in wheeler& co this weekend catering for 12 adults, 9 children and a few hungry stragglers....a bit of hard work but lots of fun at the same time....
On the menu was....

Lamb meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce

Carolines Sweet Potato curry

Saffron Rice

Tunisian Orange Cake
For the lamb meat balls to feed about 12 you will need:

3 lbs minced lamb

2 onions finely chopped
1 large bunch flat leaved parsley
1-2 tsp chilli powder, depending on how spicy you want them, I used 1 as the sauce is also spicy
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
sunflower oil for frying
salt and pepper

for the spicy sauce:
3 red onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 lbs de-seeded, de-skinned, chopped tomatoes
2 small birds-eye chillis, with seeds, finely chopped
2 tsp sugar
large bunch coriander, chopped
large bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
a few tblsps olive oil

For the brunch on Sunday, I made both tomato sauce and the meatballs on Saturday afternoon. This is a very easy dish if you have a little time on both days to prepare and cook.

Firstly make the spicy tomato sauce.
Heat the olive oil in the pan and fry the onions until soft and then add the garlic. Add the tomatoes, chilli, a pinch of salt and the sugar. Mix everything well and simmer until the sauce is thick and soft.
On Saturday, I placed this in the fridge.

Next the messy job - the meatballs.
Mix the minced lamb, onion, parsley, spices, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly using your hands. This is strangely satisfying! Then take a little meat mixture and roll it into small balls, a little smaller than the size of a golf ball and set them aside on a plate. The recipe amounts provide about 3-4 meatballs each, so in total about 36-48 meat balls, really depending on the size.

When you have balled all of the meat mixture, heat a thin layer of sunflower oil in the bottom of a wide frying pan and brown each meat ball on all sides. If you just manage to brown it on two sides, then that's ok also, but if they are browned on all sides they will keep their shape when in the tagine or casserole.
At this point on Saturday I placed these in an earthen-ware dish, covered tightly with cling film and place them in the bottom of the fridge.
I added chopped parsley and coriander to the tomato sauce in my large le creusset casserole dish, placed the meat balls in on top and simmered until the lamb had cooked through - this took about 25minutes. It was then ready to serve.
This can be eaten on its own with some greek yoghurt or even some eggs placed on top of the meatballs and cooked until the whites are set and the yolks are still slightly runny.

We ate this with saffron rice and plain basmati rice. The saffron rice, for 6 people, required 2 tsps saffron strands, crushed with the back of a teaspoon, 5 cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks and about 1litre of chicken stock made with cubes. Put this all into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add 500g of basmati rice which has been rinsed in cold water. Bring the rice to the boil and reduce to a simmer. The rice is cooked when little holes form on the top. This can be put into a pyrex dish and kept in the oven for about 30 minutes before serving. I have eaten this also served with chopped roasted pistachio nuts which is also really good.
I was minus camers at this point so have no photos of the finished product...just some fat bellys which I am sure you do not want to look at!

Tunisian Orange Cake
This Tunisian Orange Cake is a Sophie Grigson recipe which is in Darina Allens 'ballymaloe cookery course' book and I make one at least once a is really moist and a morning-must with a cup of strong black will need the following to fill one 8" circular tin, which should be buttered and lined with a round of greaseproof paper:
100g Ground Almonds
200g caster sugar
50 White breadcrumbs
200 mls Sunflower oil
1.5 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
zest of 1 large unwaxed orange, finely grated
zest of half an unwaxed lemon, finely grated
For the drizzle:
the juice of the above 1 orange
the juice of the above half lemon
75g sugar
6 cloves
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two halfs
So, easy peasy, in a large bowl mix the breadcrumbs, ground almonds, sugar and baking powder. Whisk the oil with the eggs in another bowl and then pour into the dry ingredients. Add in the zests and pour into the prepared cake tin.
Note for all of those readers used to baking cakes, the ritual of pre-heat the oven, prepare greased vessels etc., has changed. This cake is perfect for those who forget to preheat the oven as this cake goes into a cold oven!
So put the cake into the cold oven and set the heat to 180 degrees.
Bake for between 45-60 minutes until the cake is a lovely golden brown - if you stick in a cocktail stick and it comes out clean...its ready.
While it is cooking, prepare the citrus drizzle by putting all the juices, sugar and cinnamon into a saucepan and simmer for 30 mins.
Turn out onto a wire rack and flip so the top of the cake is visible.
Take your cocktail stick and prick the cake face all over.
Spoon on the syrup until it has all been absorbed into the cake and place the cloves and cinnamon stick on top for decoration.

oh and I cannot forget to mention the a Choo-choo train birthday cake... cake tin can be borrowed if anyone is interested!


  1. Hi Elizabeth

    Have been searching for the Tunisian orange cake recipe as I had eaten a piece in an upmarket coffee shop and absolutely loved it. Found the recipe on your blog thanks, but just thought I would let you know that you have left out the 'sugar' ingredient from the recipe. I was able to find the amount at another site. It is a most delicious cake and everyone has asked for the recipe. Your blog by the way is great. Jenny

  2. Hi Jenny, thanks for letting me know about the sugar. I was probably posting in the clouds of the night and forgot about it! I have updated the post so hopefully no-one will make it without sugar! I make this cake a lot, it always looks good and tastes even better and the best bit is that it keeps for about two weeks, so you can have a bit every day!