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spiced meatballs with feta and pomegranate couscous

 there are some dishes which you eat every last scrap of, scrape the bowl for leftovers while silently wishing that you hadn’t had to share the dish (in this case with 8 friends!) and mentally flick through your diary to work out when you can cook it again. this spiced meatballs with feta and pomegranate couscous was one such dish.

the meatballs were flavoured with toasted cumin and coriander plus coriander stems (i’m really enjoying using the stems in different ways to the leaves and the flavour subtleties which result), lemon, garlic and harissa. they were roasted on top of a gently spiced tomato sauce (similar flavours to the meatballs) and topped with a layer of crumbled feta which was scattered with mint and parsley before serving.

the couscous was scented with lemon, parsley, mint and chilli. i then added the seeds of a pomegranate and everything came together wonderfully – the complex layers of flavours in the meatballs and sauce, melting cheese contrasting with the light, zingy couscous. i served this with a green salad which had a simple lemon, olive oil and garlic dressing.

i'm sharing this dish with michelle of what's cooking who is hosting this month's healthy family dinners monthly mingle.

spiced meatballs with feta and pomegranate couscous (serves 8-10)

for the tomato sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

½ a teaspoon of chilli flakes

c1kg chopped tinned tomatoes

150ml dry white wine

salt & freshly ground black pepper

for the meatballs

50g fresh breadcrumbs

100ml milk

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon harissa paste

2 tablespoons coriander stems, finely chopped

grated zest of 1 lemon

500g beef mince

500g pork mince

salt & freshly ground black pepper

150g feta, crumbled into smallish pieces

a handful of mint, roughly chopped

a handful of parsley, roughly chopped 

for the couscous

400g couscous*

800ml vegetable stock

the grated zest and juice of a lemon

2 shallots, finely diced

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

a handful of mint, roughly chopped

a handful of parsley, roughly chopped

seeds from 1 pomegranate

to make the sauce, heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion until it softens. add the garlic, cumin and chilli flakes and cook for another few minutes. add the chopped tomatoes, white wine and seasoning and simmer until the sauce thickens.

to make the meatballs, mix the breadcrumbs with milk and set aside. fry the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry pan, moving them around in the pan regularly, until you are able to smell them. remove from the heat and grind the spices to a powder. heat the oil and, over a gentle heat, fry the onion and garlic until the onion softens.

in a large bowl, mix the cooked onion/garlic with the breadcrumbs, spices, harissa, coriander stem and lemon zest. add the mince, season and mix well. shape the mince into meatballs – i made c30 golf-sized balls. refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (you can make this mix the day before if you really want the flavours to meld).  

when you are ready to cook the meatballs, heat the oven to 200c.

meanwhile, heat a little oil in a non-stick pan and brown the meatballs on all sides for about 5 minutes (alternatively you can grill them). put the tomato sauce into a large baking dish (it should form a layer which is c1cm thick) and place the meatballs on top and sprinkle with the feta cheese. cover loosely with foil and bake for 15 minutes. remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes.

while the meatballs are cooking, make your couscous*, mixing the heated stock with the couscous, lemon, shallots and chilli. cover with clingfilm and set aside. when the couscous is ready, fluff it up with a fork and add the herbs and pomegranate. serve with the meatballs (i sprinkled mine with herbs to make them look prettier) and salad.

* i use instant couscous. the instructions above are adapted from the packet instructions and you may need to adapt them if you use a different type of couscous.

Reader Comments (10)

I was looking for some ispiration for a small dinner party I'm holding in a couple of weeks. This recipe sounds delicious - it's exactly what I was looking for! I'll let you know how it is received when I cook it for my friends.
January 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline
Wonderful recipe, with a delicously complex combination of ingredients.
January 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie Constantino
Thanks for participating in the Monthly Mingle! This looks wonderful :-)
i'm glad you like the sound of it ladies! caroline - let me know how it goes down with your friends!
January 21, 2009 | Registered Commenterabby
This meatball dish looks scrumptious. I've been reading that pomegranates are super healthy. Thanks for showing a recipe that uses them. I've been looking for how to cook them.
January 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCristie
hi cristie, i do love pomegranate in couscous, i hope you like it. and if not, try adding the pomegranate to champagne! or on top of a moussey chocolate cake.
January 28, 2009 | Registered Commenterabby
Hi Abby,

Just wanted to send my thanks for posting this. Made it a few weeks ago although couldn't find any pomegranates that day so substituted currants in the couscous and used ground bison for the meatballs. It was quite a hit and Lee says thanks too!

I need to figure out how to sort my recipes by season so when pomegranates are next around I'll have this at my fingertips.

Hope all's well with you!
March 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl
wow cheryl, ground bison! i'm glad you and lee liked it. all good here thanks but planning a trip to nyc and boston over easter. not quite as far as you but exciting nonetheless.
March 8, 2009 | Registered Commenterabby
how delicious.

I have been waiting for an opportunity to cook this, and that was last night. Six friends for dinner, serves 8-10!! Two meatballs left, so much for leftovers but all invited loved the dish. I used Been only and also made the couscous with Belazo Barley Couscous as have a friend who avoids wheat.
April 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
how funny michael - i never get leftovers either although if i serve up smaller portions no one is hard done by as a result. greedy people!
May 3, 2009 | Registered Commenterabby

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