Since returning from India, we’ve been talking about where we might go next. That won’t be for a while, but part of what we love so much about traveling is thinking and talking about the next trip, however far in the future it may be. Our minds are always on the next destination.
And we frequently start by considering some of the places we’ve already been, in part because we’ve really loved every trip and there’s always the temptation to return and discover more, but also because returning to a destination means there is much less research, stress and planning involved.
One place we thoroughly enjoyed was Marrakech…although it did take a few days to find our stride there. But once we did, we absolutely loved it (not least for the fantastic hammam experience we had). We’ve always said we’d go back, and though that may not be the next trip, it’s got me thinking about the food more, which always leads me to cook something reminiscent of our time there.
This meal was inspired in particular by our visits to the Djemaa el Fna, the large grand square in Marrakech where, after the sun goes down, dozens of vendors come in with stalls, carts and tents, and set up the largest open-air food hall we’d ever seen. The best stalls are the ones with no frills or checkered tablecloths, where there are few tourists if any, with local patrons eating kefta hot off the grill, as well as the accompanying tomato salad, with pieces torn from large loaves of flatbread.
If you’re not familiar with kefta, they are made from ground meat and spices, and typically formed into a sausage-shape around a skewer and grilled. As it’s been blisteringly cold here in Boston, I wasn’t about to have Rob fire up the grill, but these worked great pan-roasted in the oven. I’m definitely looking forward to trying this meal out on the grill this summer, though.
Before I made this, I had no idea how easy and fast it is to make a basic flatbread. Despite the fact that an Indian colleague had told me once that she makes her chapati (aka roti) using just wheat flour and water, I was skeptical that it (a) would truly be this easy, and (b) it would taste good. It was a delightful surprise, then, to not only come up with a fast weeknight dinner, but that I could serve it with freshly made flatbread.
India is not the only culture that has a type of flatbread, of course, and while some are unleavened and others use baking soda or yeast, people all over the world cook their roti, chapati, naan, pita, injera, arepa, or any of the dozens of other names for it, and use it as a vessel or utensil for scooping up rich stews, savory sauces, or grilled meat.
For the kefta
- 1 lb ground lamb
- a large shallot, grated on the large holes of a box grater
- about 1/2 tsp each: cumin, coriander, cayenne
- 1-2 T of harissa, depending how spicy you like it
- big handful each of parsley & cilantro, roughly chopped
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Taking a small handful of the meat, form into a sausage-like shape, and place onto a lightly oiled sheet pan – this batch made 6 large kefta, but make yours smaller if you prefer. Can be prepared ahead to this point; refrigerate until ready to cook.
To cook, preheat oven to 400°. Cook kefta on middle rack for about 20 minutes (adjust cooking time down if you made smaller kefta).
Serve with flatbread, tomato salad and yogurt dressing (recipes below).
For the yogurt dressing
- about a cup of plain yogurt
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- pinch of salt
- big handful of cilantro, chopped
Mix all together. If not using soon, refrigerate.
- 8 oz. package of grape tomatoes, quartered
- 1 small white onion, sliced
- 2 T chopped parsley
- olive oil
- red or white wine vinegar
- salt & pepper
Add first three ingredients to a bowl, then drizzle in some olive oil to lightly coat, and add a splash of vinegar; taste to adjust seasoning, adding salt & pepper as needed. Set aside until ready to eat.
Makes 5-6 flatbreads
- 2 cups flour
- pinch of salt
- about 2/3 cup water
Mix all ingredients together, adding water just until it’s a soft, knead-able dough. Knead for about 5 min until it’s smooth, then put in oiled bowl until just before you’re ready eat. Can be done ahead to this point, and left to sit for an hour or longer. I rolled the dough out and cooked the flatbread once the kefta were in the oven.
When ready to cook, place a cast iron (ideally) skillet over med-high heat. Do not add any oil. Divide dough into small balls (about 2 oz each worked well for size), roll out very thin, then place one piece of dough into in the HOT pan. Cook for about 2 min, or until you see brown spots begin to appear on the bottom. Flip and cook for another minute or two on the other side. If it puffs up, that’s fine.
Remove and cook the next flatbread the same way. To save time, I rolled each one while the previous one was cooking.