I have no idea why these meatballs are called dawood basha. There was a Da’ud Basha in the Ottoman Empire – maybe he liked meatballs? Well, story goes that Da’ud Basha loved these meatballs so much, he ate them every day. I also read online that it is good luck to hide a silver ring in one of the meatballs. I am not a fan of hiding non-edible choking hazards in my food, so I skipped that step.
Nonetheless, dawood basha meatballs are not like your typical Italian meatballs. These are fiery, moist meatballs, stuffed with a few pine nuts, swimming in a light tomato based sauce flavored with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cumin. Delish!
The last time I made these, we had some hungry lawyers over that work with my husband. I thought I would treat them to a nice, home-cooked meal since they have been working so many long hours with a lot of takeout meals. When I opened the pot and said meatballs, there was not much excitement around the room. However, let’s just say that after everyone had their seconds and thirds, we had only 2 lonely meatballs as leftovers.
There are a few key things to remember when making dawood basha. First, you have to not only keep the meatballs moist, but they also have to be firm to withstand swimming in the sauce. One time, after I added the meatballs to the sauce, they disintegrated and I ended up with Bolognese sauce of sorts. Interesting, but not what I was going for. The added breadcrumbs and egg are great binders. Although I usually add freshly pureed tomatoes to my kafta, I omit them from the dawood basha because it just adds too much moisture.
Secondly, you can’t skimp on the pine nuts! Although it takes an extra second per meatball, it is well worth it to shove a few of those suckers into each meatball so that you get a bit of added texture with the toasty, delicious crunch you get when you bite into the meatball.
Lastly, if you like some added heat, feel free to add more cayenne or your favorite spice to either the meatball or to the sauce. The spice is what elevates these meatballs beyond their lame Italian counterpart. I use Simply Organic’s Spicy Steak Seasoning because it isn’t too spicy, yet it adds a nice kick to meat. However, feel free to just use a pinch of cayenne or crushed red pepper.
Dawood Basha Meatballs
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
1 pound of lean ground beef
1 ½ tsp seven spice
1 small red onion, pureed
1/2 cup Italian panko crumbs (or any breadcrumbs you have)
½ cup chopped parsley
1-2 tsp your favorite steak seasoning or ½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp seven spice
1 cup tomato sauce
2 cups of chicken stock (16 oz)
pinch of cayenne, black pepper, and salt
PAM oil spray (preferably olive oil spray)
½ cup toasted pine nuts
(1) In a small food processor, blend the red onion with 1 tsp salt and 1 ½ tsp of seven spice. Blend until it resembles a liquidy paste.
(2) In a mixing bowl, combine the ground beef with the onion mixture, chopped parsley, and egg. (You can also add the parsley to the food processor if you prefer to not chop by hand). Add the panko crumbs. Mix all of these ingredients together. This would also be the time to throw in your steak seasoning or cayenne pepper.
(3) With your hands, make ping-pong size meatballs. As you make the meatballs, put 2-3 toasted pine nuts inside the meatball. Remember that the bowl you put the toasted pine nuts in will get contaminated by your fingers. So don’t snack on these after you finish – I throw any leftovers into the sauce later.
(4) Place the meatballs on a buttered cookie sheet, with some space between them.
(5) Place the cookie sheet into a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. If you have PAM, lightly spray the top of the meatballs before placing into the oven. This will give them a nice golden color.
(6) After about 30 minutes, when the meatballs have a nice color, remove from oven.
(7) While the meatballs are cooking, in a Dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil. Saute the diced yellow onion, cumin seeds, seven spice, and garlic. Add the cup of tomato sauce and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the meatballs, chicken broth, a pinch of salt and black pepper. If you like, add a dash of cayenne pepper too. Now would be a good time to add any leftover pine nuts…
(8)Once the mixture comes to a rapid simmer, reduce heat and cover for 20 minutes.
(9) Serve warm, over a bed of rice. Enjoy!