Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

March 26, 2017

© Susie Cushner

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Saffron rice pilaf with lamb meatballs

Easy and different is the best way to describe this casserole

For this easy casserole, petite meatballs prepared with ground lamb and seasoned with Moroccan spices are nestled into a baked rice pilaf during the last few minutes of cooking. The rice, scented with saffron, cooks to a rich, golden yellow and is accented with bits of red bell pepper and Medjool dates.


For the meatballs
1 tbsp. (15 ml) ground cumin
2 tsp. (10 ml) paprika
1 tsp. (5 ml) salt
¼ tsp. (1.25 ml) cayenne pepper
1 lb. (455 g) ground lamb
¼ c. (60 ml) very finely chopped onion
2 tsp. (10 ml) minced garlic
2 tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil


1¼ c. (310 ml) long-grain rice, preferably basmati
¾ c. (180 ml) red bell pepper cut into strips, ¼ in. (6 mm) wide and 1½ in. (4 cm) long
8 Medjool dates, pitted and cut lengthwise into quarters
3½ c. (875 ml) reduced-sodium chicken broth
¼ tsp. (1.25 ml) saffron threads, crushed
salt
3 tbsp. (45 ml) julienned fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tbsp. (45 ml) julienned fresh mint
2 tsp. (10 ml) julienned lemon zest


Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375°F (190°C). Oil a shallow 2½-quart (2.5-L) baking dish.

For the meatballs: in a medium bowl, mix together the cumin, paprika, salt and cayenne. Add the lamb, onion and garlic, and mix with two forks to combine well. Scoop 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the lamb mixture into your hands and roll into a small ball. Repeat until all the mixture has been used. You should get about 24 meatballs. (The meatballs can be prepared to this point 1 day ahead; cover and refriger¬ate. Bring to room temperature at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour before continuing with the recipe.)

Heat the olive oil in a heavy, large frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the meatballs and brown on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

Spread the rice evenly in the prepared baking dish and then scatter the bell pepper and dates over the rice.

Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan, covered, over medium heat until it simmers. Add the saffron, taste the broth and season with salt, if needed. Pour the hot broth over the rice. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake until almost all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, 20 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and carefully remove the foil. Stir in the meatballs, cover again and bake 5 minutes more. Remove from the oven.

Combine the parsley, mint and lemon zest in a small bowl, and sprinkle over the casserole before serving. Serves 4 to 6.

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