Rutabiya

An adaptation of a dish from the Middle East, Rutabiya (roo-tah-bee-yah) is almond-stuffed meatballs with chunks of meat and stuffed dates to garnish the finished dish. Serve with plain boiled rice and a tossed green salad.

1 lb. lean lamb, cut INTO 1-inch cubes

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 oz. butter

8 fl. oz. beef stock

2 oz. almonds, chopped

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 lb. lean beef, minced

2 tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs

1 small egg yolk

2 oz. whole unblanched almonds

8 oz. dates, stoned

1 teaspoon orange-flower water

Rub the lamb cubes all over with the salt, pepper and allspice.

In a large flameproof casserole, melt the butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the lamb to the casserole and fry, stirring frequently, for 6 to 8 minutes or until the meat is well browned all over.

Pour in the stock, increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to the boil. Add the chopped almonds, cinnamon and cumin and stir well to mix. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the meatballs. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the beef, breadcrumbs and egg yolk. Using your hands, knead the mixture until it is thoroughly combined. Break off pieces of the mixture and shape them into lj-inch balls. Push a whole almond into the centre of each meatball, rolling the meatball again to enclose the almond. Set the remaining almonds aside.

Add the meatballs to the casserole, recover the pan and cook for a further 30 to 35 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked.

Meanwhile, prepare the garnish. Gently push the remaining almonds into the dates, pressing the date halves together to enclose the almonds. Set aside.

When the meatballs are cooked, remove the casserole from the heat. Spoon the stew into a warmed serving dish. Arrange the stuffed dates around the edge of the dish and sprinkle them with the orange-flower water. Serve at once.

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