Keftes Garaz, Syrian Meatballs with Cherries and Tamarind

A gift from my dear friend Joan Nathan. I just love her to pieces and many of my classic dishes either have been inspired by her recipes or they were gathered in her presence!

This is one of my favorite recipes from her new book, King Solomon’s Table. I cooked a load of recipes from her book for a book signing and these were my top picks. The meat balls with cherries are simply delicious. So here I share with you Joan’s  recipe with only a few variations.

Photo from Joan Nathan’s Recipe Book, “King Solomon’s Table”

In my catering kitchen, I make small little balls for hors d’Oeuvres or a bit  larger ones for a dinner portion. When we make it as an horsd’Oeuvres, I blend the cherry tamarind sauce for a smooth consistency

Keftes Garaz, Syrian Meatballs with Cherries and Tamarind
Serves: 6 to 8 servings
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon ground Aleppo or Marash pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste or ketchup
  • ½ cups breadcrumbs - I use Gluten free
  • ¼ cups olive oil
  • 1 ½ onions, diced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons tamarind concentrate
  • 2 cups pitted sour cherries or frozen dark red cherries
  • 2 cups dried cherries
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground Kitchen Porch raz el hanout ( combination of ginger, cloves, allspice cinnamon and cumin) if you don’t have combine ½ ginger or cinnamon and ½ allspice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ½ cups beef stock
  • 1 ½ cups red wine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and toast the pine nuts by stirring often, in a small dry skillet over medium heat, until lightly brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to a medium bowl.
  2. To make the meatballs Saute the onions in the oil in a nonstick frying pan until lightly caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Add the onions to the pine nuts, then add the ground beef, garlic, Aleppo or Marash pepper, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Break the eggs into the bowl and stir in the tamarins and tomato paste or ketchup, mixing gently with your hands until just combined, then add just enough breadcrumbs for the meat to become clammy.
  4. Take about 1 ½ tablespoons of meat and slap the beef several times into the center of the palm of your hand to emulsify. Shape into small, about 11/4 inches in diameter. Put on two rimmed baking sheets and bake for about 20 minutes, or until one but still juicy. You should get about 36 meatballs
  5. While the meatballs are baking, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until transparent, then add the tamarind, pitted sour or frozen cherries, fried cherries, lemon juice, allspice, salt, pepper, beef stock and wine. Simmer together for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Here, I place the mixture in a food processor and blend until smooth, but you can do as Joan does and keep the sauce chunky.
  6. Mix the meatballs with the sauce and serve, sprinkles with chopped parsley or cilantro, over rice.


Leave a Reply

Rate this recipe:  

Kitchen Porch Catering | Martha's Vineyard | 508-645-5000