October is all about tamarind in our Tasting Jerusalem cooking group. Tamarind has quite an exotic appeal and conjures up tropical visions for me. Sure enough, tamarind trees grow in tropical areas and produce pods with an edible fruit pulp. The pods are available in some markets or you can easily find the dark brown paste on store shelves. Tamarind is popular in Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines and the tart, sour taste can go either sweet or savory.
When perusing the recipes in Jerusalem that contain tamarind paste, I was intrigued by the Stuffed Potatoes. Hollowed out small potatoes are individually stuffed with a well-seasoned meat filling and simmered in a tamarind and tomato sauce. The recipe cautions, though, that it is time consuming and best to have someone help with it. With this in mind, I decided to make a deconstructed version: meatballs simmered in sauce and served over mashed potatoes. This way I could get the benefit of all the delicious flavors in a rustic, homey fashion.
I began by making the sauce. Chopped tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and tamarind pasted simmered away, seasoned with fragrant cumin, paprika and allspice. A dash of crushed red chile added a nice little kick. While the sauce cooked, I made meatballs with ground beef, almond flour, parsley, cinnamon and garlic. The meatballs gently cooked in the flavorful sauce, filling the kitchen with its enticing scent. One of the most comforting sounds is a bubbling pot on the stove!
Once the meatballs were cooked, I spooned them over bowls of mashed potatoes, drenching it all in the rich, brown sauce. Something about eating mashed potatoes and meatballs is just so soothing and lovely. This cozy dish explodes with spice and taste, the tamarind adding a deep note of flavor. It warmed our bellies while we watched the sun set over the valley, pockets of color from the changing leaves peeking out here and there. Truly one of the most gorgeous Octobers ever!
Deconstructed Stuffed Potatoes
Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook
By Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile peppers
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon allspice
1 28 ounce can tomato puree
1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind paste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Hot mashed potatoes for serving (I mashed Yukon Gold potatoes with olive oil and some of the potato water)
To make the sauce, warm the olive oil over medium high heat in a large Dutch oven and add the garlic, onion and carrots. Cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, stir and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, make the meatballs. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the meatball ingredients and gently mix (I use my hands). Scoop out enough of the mixture to make roughly a 2 inch ball. Place in the simmering sauce and repeat until all the meat is used (you should have 12 or so meatballs). Use a spoon to gently move the meatballs around so they are not too crowded and are covered with the sauce. Let cook for about 20 minutes, until the meat is fully cooked.
To serve, scoop some mashed potatoes into a bowl and ladle a couple of meatballs and some sauce over.