Beet Stew with Lamb Meatballs

For this traditional Iraqi-Jewish dish, ground-lamb meatballs are braised in a vibrant beet stew. SAVEUR test kitchen assistant Yael Coty learned to make this dish from her grandparents, who left Iraq for Israel in 1950.

Find this recipe in our cookbook, SAVEUR: Soups and Stews


For the Meatballs
* 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
* ½ lb. ground lamb
* 2 tbsp. dried currants
* 1½ tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
* 1 tbsp. pine nuts
* ½ tsp. paprika
* 1 egg, lightly beaten
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Rice
* 1½ cups basmati rice, soaked in water for 20 minutes
* 2 tsp. kosher salt
* 1 tsp. turmeric

For the Stew
* 6 small red beets (about 1 lb.), peeled and cut into sixths
* 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* 5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
* 1½ tsp. ground coriander
* 1½ tsp. ground cumin
* 1½ tsp. curry powder
* 1 tsp. turmeric
* ¾ tsp. paprika
* ½ tsp. ground ginger
* 1/8 tsp. cayenne
* 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
* ¼ cup tomato paste
* 6 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
* 2 tbsp. sugar
* 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Make the meatballs: Heat oil in an 8" skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool slightly. Add onions to a medium bowl along with lamb, currants, parsley, pine nuts, paprika, and egg and combine with your hands. Divide mixture into 12 portions; dip your hands in a bowl of water and roll portions into 1½" meatballs and transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Cover meatballs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Prepare the rice: Strain rice and transfer to a 2-qt. saucepan along with the salt, turmeric, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat and keep covered in a warm place.

3. Meanwhile, make the stew: Bring beets and 6 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until beets are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove pot from heat and, using a slotted spoon, transfer beets to a bowl; reserve beet juice.

4. Put garlic on a work surface and sprinkle with a little salt; finely chop. Scrape the garlic into a paste with the side of the chef's knife. In a small bowl, combine garlic paste, 3 tbsp. oil, coriander, cumin, curry powder, turmeric, paprika, ginger, and cayenne; set spice paste aside. Heat remaining olive oil in a 6-qt. pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add reserved spice paste and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the reserved beet juice. Add remaining beet juice, lemon juice, and sugar; simmer for 5 minutes. Using a spoon, place reserved meatballs in the simmering stew. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until meatballs are cooked through, about 8 minutes. Skim surface of stew, add reserved beets, and cook for 2 more minutes. To serve, fluff rice with a fork and spoon it into serving bowls along with ladlefuls of the stew and meatballs; season and garnish with parsley.

Pairing Note: The earthy 2006 Marqués de Cáceres grenache rosé 2006 ($9) from Rioja has refreshing spicy notes and pairs well with this earthy dish. —Ania Zawieja

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