Cauliflower-Stuffed Meatball Ragout in Spicy Tomato Sauce (Tunisian Mubattan Bruklu)
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
- 6 cups olive oil or vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 medium-sized head cauliflower (about 1 pound)
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, lamb, or veal
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons tabil (a Tunisian spice blend of coriander seed, caraway seed, garlic powder, cayenne pepper)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs beaten
- All-purpose unbleached flour, as needed, for dredging
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE SAUCE:
For the meatballs:
Preheat frying oil in a deep-fryer or 8-inch deep saucepan to 375 degrees F.
Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the whole cauliflower until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well and break into small florets.
Have a bowl of water handy to keep your hands wet while making meatballs. Meatballs are formed by flattening a lemon-sized portion of meat into a thin patty and wrapping the patty around a cauliflower floret to completely enclose. Form into an oval shape, then dip into the eggs and dredge in flour, tapping off any excess flour.
Cook the meatballs in oil until golden, about 4 minutes, without crowding the fryer. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper toweling to drain.
For the sauce:
Heat the extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Dissolve the tomato paste in the water, and add to the pan along with harisa and ground red chili. Add the meatballs and cook covered until most of the liquid evaporates, about 25 minutes. Add a little water to rehydrate sauce if it is dries out before that time. Serve meatballs covered with sauce.