Algeria is a North African country situated between Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, and Alboran Sea. 80% of Algeria is made up by the Sahara desert. The country is known for its artisanship- pottery, carpet weaving, and wooden sculptures.
The cuisine of Algeria is made up of several cultures; Berbers, Romans, French, Spanish, Turks, and Arabs. Common spices used in their cooking includes cumin, caraway, fennel, coriander, and marjoram. A typical Algerian meal will consist of meat (lamb, beef, or poultry), bread, fresh herbs, vegetables, and oil. Couscous is another staple of the Algerian diet. Pork is not consumed due to the majority of the country being Muslim. One would traditionally eat an Algerian meal at a low sitting table using their right thumb, index, and middle fingers.
Mtewem which is Arabic for “with garlic,” is classically prepared in a tajine pot with either a white sauce or spicy red sauce. The meatballs can be made with either ground lamb, chicken, or beef and like the name implies LOTS of garlic!
I found the dish was easy enough to prepare. The meatballs were not perfectly formed and seemed to fall apart a little while cooking. I used canned chickpeas to cut preparation time as well which is usually my go to! I used a mild olive oil as my cooking oil. To add a little more to this meal, all though not traditional we added jasmine rice.
This dish had slight flavors of cumin and lemon which was a nice pairing, the main character however was garlic! It overall felt light and healthy to eat. The almond flavor was mild, but enjoyable. We also discovered meat balls and chickpeas work well together! We just wished the sauce was more abundant. The dish was rated 8/10.
Algerian Hirshon Garlic Meatballs in Spicy Red Garlic Sauce
- 1lb ground beef
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2 head of garlic
- 1/2 cup water
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 onion chopped
- 1/2 head of garlic minced
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp harissa can use paprika
- 1 15.5 oz can of chickpeas
- 1/4 cup almonds Marcona if you can find them- ground
- 3 tbsp argan oil or other neutral oil
- 6 tbsp water
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup parsley chopped
- 1 lemon sliced
- bread optional for serving
- Start making meatballs by kneading ground beef in bowl with a few tbsp of water. Keep kneading until all water is incorporated- this will increase meat tenderness.
- Add the remaining meatball ingredients to bowl and mix well. Oil hands with neutral or argan oil and make walnut-sized balls transferring balls to platter.
- Add meatballs to skillet/large sauce pan with warmed oil at medium heat. Brown on all sides and remove from pan. Add onions and cook until golden. Then add garlic, chickpeas, spices, ground almonds, tomato paste, harissa, and meatballs. Add enough water to cover everything and allow to cook for 20 minutes at medium low heat (until meat is tender).
- Once meatballs are cooked through remove from pan and reduce sauce for an additional 10 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
- To serve return meatballs in sauce and top with fresh parsley and lemon slices. You may also serve with bread to help absorb the sauce.