Grab Some Garlic and Give Dad His Day

By Habeeb Salloum

In North Africa, as well as the Middle East and in the countries of eastern and southern Europe, garlic forms an essential part of everyday meals. This Algerian dish of meatballs and chickpeas in a tomato sauce is a fine example of how garlic is used to enhance the flavour of an ordinary dish like meatballs.

Here is a stew that incorporates a whole series of healthy ingredients oozing an enticing aroma that can very well lead one to overeat.  Muthawwim means ‘garlicky’ and this is what this Algerian one-dish meal delivers – a flavourful stew packed full of garlic-infused ingredients.  Slightly spicy, scented with a hint of cinnamon and cumin, the meat just melts in your mouth. Don’t be alarmed by the full head of garlic – it mellows out as it cooks with an end result of a sauce having a subtle and succulent flavour. 

With meatballs, you can never go wrong – but you might end up realizing that the common meatball has found competition in this North African version.  They are healthy and hearty just like we want fathers to be.

Serve it on Father’s Day in tribute to dads.

Garlic Meatballs – Muthawwim

Serves 8 to 10

4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 pound beef, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 head garlic, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
pinch of cayenne
1-pound lean ground beef
1/4 cup rice, rinsed
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups cooked chickpeas

In a saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the onion over medium heat until onion begins to brown. Add the cubed meat, half the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, the cumin and the cayenne. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add water to cover meat plus 1-inch over meat and bring to boil.  Cover and simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, thoroughly mix the ground beef, rice, parsley, egg, and the remaining garlic, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Form into small meatballs preferably the size of large marbles, then gently place the meatballs in the simmering saucepan. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste and the chickpeas, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the meatballs are done, stirring occasionally.

Serve hot, enjoy.