Moroccan Meatball and Kabocha Squash Soup

For dinner, I decided to whip together this recipe from A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash. It looked really quick and easy, but with all the chopping and prep it took about a hour overall! I am a slow cook, but still – phew! The soup is very similar in style to an Italian Wedding Soup, but the flavors are distinctly Moroccan and it tasted a bit more hearty than the Italian version, probably due to the starchy kabocha squash. The ingredients are:

  • 1 lb ground lamb or lean ground beef 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3-4 Tablespoons plain bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 2-3 Tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 onion, chopped (I used a Vidalia)
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 cups kabocha squash, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1+ teaspoons finely grated ginger
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 quart low-sodium beef stock and 1/2 quart water
  • 1 bunch red swiss chard, stalks and leaves chopped separately

I started by mixing the first seven ingredients into meatballs, about 1″ in diameter. I browned these over medium to medium-high heat, but didn’t cook them all the way through (to leave some flavor in for the soup’s broth yet impart some browned goodness to the meatballs themselves – an improvement I noted in my Italian Wedding Soup from January); thankfully, no liquid was lost while browning. While the meatballs were cooking, I sauteed the onion, fennel, swiss chard stalks (finely sliced), and carrot in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until translucent but not limp (generously salted at this stage!). Next I added the spices and ginger, stirred well, then added the squash, tomato paste, and broth. I brought that to a boil, then simmered for about 10 minutes. Next I added the meatballs and chopped swiss chard leaves and let that cook for at least 5 minutes but not much more. I didn’t find I needed to adjust the seasoning at all; happily, like the other recipes I’ve tried from this quaint little cookbook so far, the recipe was easy to follow and turned out exactly as it said it would.

The lovely Morrocan Meatball and Kabocha Squash Soup - colorful, spicy, and warm!

The lovely Morrocan Meatball and Kabocha Squash Soup - colorful, spicy, and warm!

The soup turned out to be deliciously flavored and perfectly spiced. The meatballs were tasty, if just a tad dry – they really should have been added after the soup came to a boil, I think. In fact, I would have used ground lamb, but I was just trying to use up the slightly less than 1 pound of ground beef I had in my freezer. The lamb would have lent a fully authentic Moroccan flavor, so I will do that next time. I also might use a different type of squash, as I wasn’t particularly fond of the kabocha squash; this was the first time I’d eaten it. I found it slightly starchy and dense for my taste, almost like a butternut squash but not as creamy. I might try a hubbard, golden nugget, or acorn next time. Finally, I think I’ll add some turmeric to the soup as well when the cumin and allspice are added, as mom told me eating turmeric three times a week wards off Alzheimer’s (hey, I’m game to keep that away!). I find turmeric has a generally mild flavor anyways, and the soup has a yellow color to begin with, so adding turmeric wouldn’t change anything to that end. So, all in all I have very few and slight improvements to this recipe. It was a real winner – a fairly hearty and very satisfying soup. It was worth the effort!

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