How about Moroccan for dinner?

This week we have another tagine recipe, for no other reason than “venison tagine” is my most common search term and my most-read recipe. (Those two things should go hand in hand, in theory.) Who would have thought that there was such a demand out there for venison tagine recipes?

Don’t think for a second, however, that this is just a repeat. It most certainly is not. In the last recipe, I used stew meat. With stew meat, you need a nice long braising in the oven to make sure the meat is tender. Which is great and delicious but what do you do when you want Moroccan food and don’t have time for stewing?

You use meatballs! The meatball solves two problems. First, this tagine recipe is much quicker cooking. Secondly, this solves the hunter’s common problem of what to do with all that ground venison. It may seem like a lot of work on the outset to make meatballs and then stew them, but the mince mix is pretty fast and simple. It’s also pretty versatile. If, for example, you forgot to include parsley in your meatball mix, simply throw it in the whole dish at the end. (Woops!)

The result you get here is maybe slightly less decadent than an apricot-laden, slow cooked tagine, but you still get that sweet, tangy stew that a handful of briney olives cuts right through. As far as the veggies, I included red peppers because they were beautiful and on sale. Cauliflower and/or chickpeas would also be excellent additions to this dish.

For recipe notes, I used half venison half hog, because we have some ground hog just hanging out. Yes, it’s slightly sacrilege to put pork in anything North African or Middle Eastern. Sorry. You can use all venison if you are having guests that don’t eat pork and it will be just as good.

With the rice, I kind of concocted something easy but special. If you’re starting with a fresh batch of rice, grate your zest into the water before you cook it, then add the lemon juice, cilantro and honey at the end. You can, however, dress up leftover rice just as easily by mixing about 1/2 the zest in before reheating it, then mixing in the rest at the end. I wasn’t sure about a honey lemon rice, but it went extremely well with this dish.

Moroccan Meatball Tagine with Lemon Cilantro Rice

Ingredients

For the Meatballs

  • 1lb ground venison
  • 1lb ground wild hog (or use ground pork or ground beef, something fatty)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch black pepper
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1/3 cup parsley (chopped)
  • 2 eggs (beaten)

For the Tagine

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (14 oz cans, plus one can of water)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1/2 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Large red bell pepper (diced)
  • 14-18 olives (cut in half)

For the rice

  • 3 cups white or brown rice (cooked - it can be leftover rice)
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (chopped)

Directions

For the meatballs
Step 1
Mix all the meatball ingredients and mix well with your hands. Roll into small, bite-sized balls and set aside.
For the Tagine
Step 2
Heat a stove-safe tagine or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the oil and sauté the oven with a little salt until soft. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients except the olives. Nestle the meatballs in the sauce. Throw the olives on top. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about a half an hour.
For the rice
Step 3
If you're cooking rice fresh, add the lemon zest to the water before you cook it. Once the rice is done, add the lemon juice, honey and cilantro. If using leftover rice, reheat with a little of the lemon zest, then add the lemon juice, honey, and cilantro. Mix well.
Step 4
Serve the tagine warm over the rice.

Non-game substitution: I’d use lamb. But you could also go with ground beef.

Vegetarian Recipe: You can swap out the meatballs with cauliflower and chickpeas! I bet a dollop of Greek yogurt on top would also be delish.

Posted in Venison
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