Slow Cooker North African Inspired Meatballs

North Africa is an area of the world with a complex history. A crossroads of political, cultural, historic, ethnic, and geographic diversity, its cooking contains strong elements from many cuisines, fusing together to create a unique and flavorful variety of food traditions. The countries considered to be north African include Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Mauritania, and Egypt.

Moorish, African/Berber, Arab, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, French, and Jewish influences are seen in both methods of preparation, the combination of ingredients, and the blending of herbs, spices and other flavoring agents. The history of this area shows each of these cultures’ presence as traders, conquerors, and immigrants, each contributing their own well-developed cuisines to indigenous food traditions.

While it borders the Mediterranean Sea and shares some similar ingredients with northern Mediterranean cuisines, north African cooking uses more spices, often creating the complex layers of flavor characteristic of the cuisine. Typical flavoring agents might include saffron, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, cloves, hot peppers, anise and sesame seeds, coriander and mint. Olives, olive oil, oranges, and lemons are also used in conjunction with these spices, together creating intriguing and unique flavors. The inclusion of flavors and ingredients from the New World, such as peppers, further displays the polyglot character spoken by this cuisine.

Couscous, a tiny pasta made from a type of wheat called semolina, is a staple food in this area. It absorbs sauces wonderfully, and is it recommended as an accompaniment in this recipe.

Slow Cooker North African Inspired Meatballs

  • 1 medium onion, chopped in 1/2″ pieces
  • 1.5 pounds, frozen turkey meatballs, un-defrosted
  • 1 16 oz can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives, drained
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground smoked paprika
  • 1.5 tablespoons ground sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon oregano leaf, lightly crushed just before adding
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water

To a slow cooker, add the above ingredients in the order above. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for approximately 6 hours until the meatballs are tender and the flavors are well blended. Stirring once half-way through the cooking time if possible. Serve over cooked couscous.

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