If you’ve been hanging around these parts, you know may know that my grandma was a huge influence on my life. Born in Egypt, her Jewish family originated in Iraq and Syria, and then she married my grandfather, and moved to his hometown of Beirut. As you can imagine, her cooking borrowed from all of those traditions. This was– and is– wonderful, but it does mean that sometimes when I try to find recipes for some of the dishes she made when I was growing up, I can’t! I don’t know whether my grandma made this dish up, but I have not found a recipe for this anywhere and I can’t find any leads on Google.
This is one of those dishes that is composed of a few simple ingredients, but has a flavor that you just can’t imagine until you try it. The Syrian-style meatballs are mixed with rice flour and hollowed out, then fried until crisp. Then they are sauteed with lemon juice and pomegranate molasses until the are coated with a thick, sour-sweet sauce. I like to serve them over rice but you can also serve them with pita bread.
Pomegranate-Glazed Meatballs (Kibbeh T’lbasha)
· 1 lb ground beef
· 1 lb rice flour
· 1 tsp kosher salt
· ¼ cup vegetable oil
· 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
· 1 tablespoon lemon juice
· 1 tsp ground allspice
· 1 tsp ground cinnamon
· 1 clove garlic, minced
· 1 teaspoon salt
1. To make the meatballs, put the ground beef in a food processor and process until smooth. Add rice flour and salt and process for a minute or so, until a smooth pink dough forms.
2. Roll the meat mixture into 1-inch balls. Place the ball in your left hand, and use the index finger of your right hand to press it against your left hand, forming a hollow shell. This takes practice! Try to make the shell as thin as possible while not breaking through. If it is getting too dry, add a bit of vegetable oil.
3. Once you have formed all the meatballs, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet and fry the meatballs until brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels.
4. Mix ingredients for the sauce along with ½ cup water. Place meatballs in a large clean sauté pan and pour the sauce over. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer for another 15-20 minutes, until sauce has thickened. Turn meatballs occasionally to coat. Serve.
My grandma had usually finished cooking dinner by around 2pm, and it sat on the stove until dinner time. When I was a kid I had to walk by the kitchen on the way to my bedroom and when there were meatballs, I’d steal one and quickly walk away as I munched. At dinner time my grandma would open the pot and say ” I thought I made more meatballs!” I was a teenager before I realized that she always knew it was me.
There is definitely a learning curve to making this type of meatball, and if there’s enough interest I’ll be glad to make a video tutorial.