Autumn Tagine with Meatballs and Squash

01. November 2007 Lamb + Veal 0

I asked my parents if ever a balloon popped in my face when I was a kid. I like balloons just fine, but the possibility that one would pop makes me wince. I had the same reaction when I started to use the tagine cooker I bought in Tunisia. (Don’t get me started with a pressure cooker!) The potter told me that because there’s a pinhole on the top of the cover, that it’s safe to put on top of a stove. Because it’s also not decorated and had already been fired, it would be all right to use as both a cooker and a serving bowl. To make sure, though, I first boiled some hot water in it with a small drop of oil. There was no popping–I stayed far away from the kitchen–and the water didn’t turn blue or anything, so I deemed it safe to use.

Today was the first day it felt truly like autumn and I wanted something comforting for dinner. This recipe takes a lot of prep work, so it’s advisable to make the meatballs and roast the squash ahead of time. The end product, though, is totally worth all the time you put in.

1 butternut squash, halved
1 large carrot, peeled, chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsps cumin
2 tbsps cinnamon powder
5 saffron threads, soaked in 2 tbsps hot water
a handful of parsley, roughly chopped
juice from a small lemon
2 cups chicken stock

For the lamb meatballs:
1 pound of ground lamb
1/4 cup of cilantro, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp cumin, grounded
1 tbsp paprika
salt, pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Season butternut squash halves with salt and pepper and drizzled some olive oil on them. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until squash meat is tender. Set aside and let cool. When squash is cool enough to handle, score and scoop out the meat into big chunks.
2. In the meantime, make meatballs by forming golf-sized balls with your hands. Brown meatballs by frying them in a skillet with hot oil. Set aside.
3. In a tagine cooker, or a large Dutch oven, sauté garlic and onions. Add carrots, chicken stock, cumin, cinnamon and saffron. Cover and cook carrots until tender. Add browned meatballs and roasted squash. Cover to cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in lemon juice and parsley. Turn off the heat and keep the cooker covered until ready to serve. Serve with couscous.

Related post/s:
You can make the meatballs ahead of time
Or make a kofta tagine
Not everyone needs a tagine, but it sure is nice to have