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Tadjine Kefta b' Zeitoun | Algerian Meatballs with Olives {GLUTEN - FREE ADAPTABLE}

بِسْــــــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِارَّحْمَنِ ارَّحِيم
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

Here's a scrumptious yet simple dish for you all to try out. It's a dish you can prepare easily any busy weeknight with a few ingredients but it's a also just as stunning on a Ramadan iftar table. Tadjine Kefta b' Zeitoun is a traditional Algerian dish with meatballs vibrantly flavored with cumin, coriander, olives and preserved lemons. It's quite extraordinary ménage of flavors. 

There are many Algerian and North African dish that are flavored with the addition of olives.  I've even shared some of them :  Tadjine Djej b' Zeitoun (chicken with olives), Tadjine Djej b' Kosbour ( chicken with coriander and olives), Tadjine Kibda Chermoula b'Zeitoun ( liver with olives) and I even shared an Algerian olive bread to accompany any one of these dishes. Enchallah some time in the future I'll have a chance to share more succulent, tender, and full flavored Algerian dishes with olives. J

This delicious tadjine is traditionally served with freshly baked homemade bread, but is just as lovely with a plate of herbed rice, buttered couscous or even cauliflower couscous as I have done here. The recipe for the cauliflower couscous is coming in the near future! So stay tuned in for that ...

Please note, there is total of 270g - 1 ½ cups olives in this recipe. The amounts are flexible. Add more or less depending on your preference. The olives are divided between the meatballs and sauce. And I normally blanch the olives to remove any of the bitterness and excess salt. If you don't feel like doing this extra step, simply add the olives in at end and reduce the amount of salt you add to the sauce. But I think blanching the olives works best as you are able to control the saltiness of the dish.

Algerian Meatballs with Olives

active prep time: 15 mins | inactive prep time: 0 mins bake time: 20 -25 mins 
serves 4-6


  • 500g - 1 lb of lean ground beef
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 cup cubed day-old bread
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½  tsp of cumin
  • 1 medium egg
  • 90g -  ½  cup pitted green olives
  • handful of chopped parsely and coriander/cilantro
  • Harissa, to taste (optional)
  • ¼  tsp black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • flour, for dusting

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • half of one preserved lemon, cut into small pieces
  • 2 ripe tomato, grated
  • 180g - 1 cup pitted green olives
  • ¼ tsp black pepper, to taste
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt, to taste
  • 1-2 TBS light olive oil or other neutral olive
  • water

BLANCH the olives in boiling water. Repeat two times to remove the bitterness of the olives and the excess salt.

PUT the bread cubes and milk in a small bowl. Leave bread to soak until softened, about 5 minutes, then squeeze dry.

REMOVE any seeds of perserved lemon then cut small pieces. Cut the half cup of the pitted green olives cut into small pieces. The smaller the better. Peel and chop the onion and garlic also.

HEAT the olive oil in a tadjine or 
braiser pan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Add in the cumin, salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Scrape the vegetable-spice mixture into a large bowl and let cool.

ONCE the onion mixture has cooled add ground beef, harissa, preserved lemon, sliced olives, squeezed out bread, egg and herbs. Mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Roll into walnut sized balls. Dust each meatball in flour and set on a large plate.

HEAT some oil in the tadjine or braiser pan.  Brown the meatballs until barely browned, about 2 minutes. Drain and blot on paper towel. Set aside.

ADD the onions and garlic and sauté over moderate fire until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add about half cup of water to deglaze the pan, then procceed to add in the remaning sauce ingredients. 

NOW add in the meatballs back into the pan and enough water to cover. Lower the fire, cover the pan and simmer the meatballs until tender, about 20 minutes. The sauce should be reduced and fragant.

Spoon into a serving platter, garnish with chopped parsely and coriander/cilantro and serve with freshly baked homestyle bread, rice, couscous or cauliflower couscous as I have.

Many cooks like to even put small whole mushrooms into the sauce. And alternatively, you  could use the large green olives then stuff them with the ground meat mixture. ß This dish is called Zeitoun Maâmar.

The dough can be made ahead then frozen until ready to eat; allow about 2 hours to thaw on countertop

Gluten - Free

You can easily make this gluten free by replacing the bread with ½ cup gluten-free oatflour. And then also dust the meatballs with the oatflour before browning.

Egg - Free

Preplace the egg with two tablespoons ground flax meal plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder blended with 3 tablespoons of boiling hot water .

Cooking Alternative
You can alternatively, cook this dish in the oven in a oven-safe Dutch oven, cassoulet pot or casserole at 180°C - 350°F for about 20 minutes.

 Algerian, Meat - Red Meats


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