Meatball tagine with olives and pickled lemon

Serves 4

Minced mutton makes a great tagine like this, you can keep it just as it is or add some chunks of pumpkin or a few grilled merguez sausages at the end.

For the meatballs

800g minced mutton
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
½tsp ground cumin
½tsp sweet Spanish pimenton or paprika
1tsp freshly-grated root ginger
¼tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

2 onions, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
½tsp Spanish pimenton or paprika
½tsp ground cumin
½tsp ground cinnamon
A good pinch of saffron
4tbsp olive oil
300ml beef or chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pickled lemon
20 or so good-quality green olives

First make the sauce. In a good-size saucepan or cast-iron casserole, gently cook the onion, garlic, pimenton, cumin, cinnamon and saffron in the oil for about 5 minutes, until soft. Add the stock, bring to the boil, season with salt and pepper andf simmer for 20 minutes. add the pickled lemon and olives; simmer for another 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a bowl, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well. Mould into balls about the size of a 10p piece and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat some vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan until almost smoking and fry the meatballs, a few at a time, until nicely coloured; then drain in a colander or on some kitchen paper. At this stage you can transfer the sauce to a tagine. Add the meatballs and simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve in a tagine with the lid on or in a heatproof serving dish. Steamed couscous makes a nice accompaniment.

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