I’m a big fan of a hearty filling dish, and I’m an even bigger fan of North African flavours! These Saucy Moroccan Meatless Balls with Fragrant Rice are full of great texture from walnuts and chickpeas, and are given a sweetness from apricots. Served with red wine tomato sauce, tangy citrus fragrant rice and topped with flaked almonds to give the dish a brilliant crunch.
Making meatless balls, patties or burgers is always easier than you think, and I love that you can make double and just freeze half the mixture so you have a mix ready for the next time you want to cook it! These meatless balls are full of flavour from all the spices including smoked paprika which is my favourite, as it gives dishes such a rich oaky taste. You can add more of less of some spices depending on taste, and chilli flakes are optional (but delicious).
The main substance of these meatless balls are mushrooms, chickpeas, walnuts and apricots. Pretty much any kind of mushroom will work, although I think chestnut mushrooms have a bit of a nutty flavour and a great texture. Chickpeas are full of protein, and are a typical Moroccan pulse, however, other beans like haricot or borlotti beans will work perfectly. I always say use up whatever you have in your cupboard. Walnuts are great in savoury dishes, add texture as they are not too hard but have the perfect firmness for meatless balls. Then the apricots are one of the best bits - again, they are a typical Moroccan ingredient, giving dishes like the famous tagine their sweet flavour alongside the rich savoury spices.
These Moroccan meatless balls hold together really well with the milled chia seeds or linseed (either work just fine). When you mix them with water they form a jelly like substance, which acts as a binder (like egg) and is perfect for these sorts of dishes. The recipe also uses a bit of buckwheat flour to help it hold together.
No meatless ball dish would be complete without sauce. And this one is a very simple tomato Passata sauce, made even more yummy with red wine (a lot of supermarkets now label if their wine is vegan). As it’s Moroccan, these balls are served with rice and I couldn’t resist putting some finely chopped preserved lemons in for that fresh citrus tangy taste - so simple but sooooo good. To finish the dish off, the toppings are wonderfully easy - some toasted flaked almonds and chopped coriander or parsley.
This Saucy Moroccan Meatless Balls recipe is just perfect as a weekend dish or one to impress your dinner party guests!
Saucy Moroccan Meatless Balls with Fragrant Rice and Flaked Almonds
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 250 g mushrooms, finely diced
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp paprika
- 3 tsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp chili flakes (optional)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 6 dried apricots, finely diced
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (or 2 tins of drained chickpeas) (other beans like haricot or borlotti will work fine too)
- 6 tbsp ground chia seeds or linseed
- 12 tbsp water
- zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- ¼ cup walnuts, finely chopped
- ¼ cup buckwheat flour
- Small handful fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
- 2 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 4 tbsp Olive oil (for frying and for brushing the meatless balls)
- Toasted almond flakes, to serve
- Handful fresh coriander or parsley, chopped, to serve
- 350 g rice of choice
- 4 preserved lemons, chopped finely
Passata-based Tomato Sauce
- 1 large jar tomato passata (~700g)
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ⅓ cup vegan red wine
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp Chili (optional)
- Heat up 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large frying pan or saucepan. Add the onion and fry until soft. Then add the garlic and fry for a further couple of minutes.
- In a food processor, shred the chickpeas and set aside.
- Add to the onion and garlic the carrot and mushrooms, and sautee until soft but also until liquid from mushrooms has evaporated.
- Stir in all the spices, rosemary, salt and pepper. Cook for another few minutes on a low heat. Then add the tomato paste.
- In a separate bowl, combine the ground chia seeds / linseed and water, and allow it to form a jelly-like substance.
- In a large mixing bowl, place all sauteed ingredients from the pan, plus the shredded chickpeas, walnuts, zest, apricots, nutritional yeast, buckwheat flour and chia jelly. Combine the mix with your hands.
- Place the mix in the fridge for a few hours for it to firm up. This will allow you to more easily make the meatballs.
- Before making up the meatless balls, preheat oven to 200 C. Line a baking tray with baking parchments and brush it with olive oil.
- Use your hands to form balls from the mixture. These should be about golf ball sized. Squeeze the mixture in your hands before shaping into a ball to ensure they won’t fall apart.
- Brush each meatless ball with olive oil.
- Bake them for 15 minutes, then turn each one over and bake for another 15 minutes. They can also be pan fried, or rolled in ground almonds and deep fried.
- Serve on a bed of fragrant rice, with tomato sauce, and garnish with coriander and toasted flaked almonds.
- Cook rice as per rice instructions.
- Once cooked, add the preserved lemon and mix through. Leave the lid on the rice for a few minutes once the lemons are mixed in, so the flavour can infuse.
Passata-based Tomato Sauce
- Fry the garlic in the olive oil with the cumin and paprika.
- Once the flavours are released, add the passata. Add the chili if using.
- Add the red wine and cook for 10 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.