Morocco is known for many things, including its beautiful landscapes, its long history of nomadic people and its delicious cuisine. But what comes to mind when you think of Moroccan cuisine? Perhaps the national dish of Morocco: couscous with lamb, beef or chicken mixed with moist root vegetables. Maybe an image of tantalizing tagine in its beautiful cookware (also called tagine) or of the cookware itself, now popularly seen in stores such as West Elm and Le Creuset. Most likely, you have seen variations of Moroccan mint tea at coffee shops.
Upon exploring and tasting Moroccan cuisine, you may agree with Moroccan-born chef Rebekah Hassan. She contends that Moroccan cuisine, "in terms of subtlety, delicacy, pure flavor and taste, is comparable with the much more famous cuisines of France, India and China."
Situated at the crossroads of Europe and the Mediterranean to the north, the Arab world to the east and sub-Saharan Africa to the south, Morocco and its food have been influenced by nomads, colonizers and immigrants alike. As the fluid borders of culture and travel altered so many Moroccan foods, these fragrant salads, entrees, desserts and spices traveled far, as well. Some dishes, however, remain only local delights.
One such dish is Moroccan meatballs, known locally and in dialectal Arabic as BM. Bid (pronounced BEED') means egg, and maticha (pronounced mah-TEE'-chah) means tomatoes. This classic dish consists of well-seasoned beef and lamb meatballs in a spicy red sauce, topped with eggs sunny side up. It does not have one particular origin and is found in kitchens throughout Morocco because it is relatively inexpensive and easy to prepare.
But you won't likely find a recipe for BM in Moroccan or international cookbooks, for it remains largely a family repas. Casablanca native Sakina Diana explains, "This is a recipe we eat when we don't want to worry too much about cooking." However, don't let this fool you; it is just as good as, if not better than, the better-known Moroccan cuisines. Diana says many Moroccans "eat it with mint tea, and it is so good!" BM bursts with rich and hearty flavors and is simple to prepare. Its unique presentation is also sure to impress family and friends.
BM may be prepared in either a tagine or a large skillet. Eggs are an optional but classic and flavor-filled addition to this dish. A simple side of whole roasted bell peppers, lightly drizzled with olive oil and sea salt, pairs well with BM. As Diana suggests, Moroccan mint tea (prepared with fresh mint and lots of sugar) is a refreshing complement to the meal. Lastly, no Moroccan meal is complete without fresh bread, and a large, round loaf makes for an easy time cleaning the skillet.
How to make BM:
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground lamb
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon hot paprika (optional)
Salt and black pepper
Combine the ingredients in a large bowl.
Roll each ball so it is about 3/4 inch in diameter (smaller than a golf ball), and place it in a large, wide skillet. (You may want to use 2 skillets in order to allow plenty of room for the red sauce and eggs.)
Place the meatballs in the skillet on medium heat, and turn them frequently. When the meatballs are mostly cooked (10 to 15 minutes), add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to 1 jar of red sauce. Stir the mixture, and then pour it in the pan.
Turn the heat to medium-high, but be careful, as the sauce will splatter. As soon as the sauce is bubbling-hot (3 to 5 minutes), crack several eggs into the sauce, dispersing them evenly among the meatballs.
When the whites of the eggs have fully cooked, remove the pan from the heat.
Serve with a fresh loaf of bread.
--Add and subtract the quantity of spices and seasonings as desired. Experiment with mixing other common Moroccan spices and herbs -- such as coriander, paprika, ginger or mint -- into the meatballs.
--For an authentic Moroccan meal, place the skillet directly on the table, and allow each person to serve him/herself, scooping the meatballs and sauce using bread.
--Serve dried apricots, dates or figs drizzled with honey for dessert.