Comfort food, Persian style. Eggplant Sumac Meatballs with Saffron Rice is perfect for a simple dinner that doesn’t require a lot of effort yet is full of flavor. The tanginess of sumac and the aroma of saffron make this dish very special.
Flavors, aromas and memories. For me, they always go hand in hand.
As you know by now, I’m all about family, food and togetherness. As long as I have these three by my side, I’m happy and satisfied. Some want tons of money and some want to dominate the world. Me? I just want to have everyone here by my side and share a good meal with them. What can I say, what someone has as a privilege is a wish for someone else. Life, eh?
How do memories come back to you? For me, it’s aromas and smells. Some smells and aromas bring back so many memories to me. Like the smell of Persian tea, please, do yourself a favor and buy some Persian tea. The aroma is so deep and dreamy.
Another aroma that brings back all the good memories is the aroma of saffron. Every time I use bloomed saffron, I remember being in the kitchen with my maman, watching her as she works her magic around the kitchen using simple ingredients to make the most delicious meal ever. Now here I am, blooming some saffron and making something new to taste like “home” in a new home.
This eggplant sumac meatballs is a Persian comfort food. Beside Ash (thick soup) and mixed rice dishes, I would call meatballs comfort food too. Because they are packed with flavors and when they’re served warm with some rice, they bring so much comfort and joy.
Starting with the ingredients, the only ingredient that may need an introduction is sumac. Sumac is a spice that some of you might not be familiar with. It’s sour and tangy and goes really well with red meat. We sprinkle it on our kebabs and sometimes on rice, too. If you have ever tried zaatar, you would be familiar with sumac, too, as it’s one of the main ingredients in zaatar. Sumac is also one of the elements of our New Year’s setting, Haft Sin. I will tell you more about it later, as it deserves to have its own post and story.
The process of making these eggplant sumac meatballs is pretty standard, with an extra step of roasting the eggplant before making the meatballs. The rest is easy. Mix all the ingredients, brown the meatballs, make the sauce, and cook the meatballs in the sauce for 25 minutes. That’s it. Easy, and full of comfort.
As for the saffron rice, you can pretty much make the Persian style rice with crispy golden crust and then mix it with some bloomed saffron when it’s all cooked. My favorite saffron to use is Mehr saffron. The color and flavor is perfect, just how I like saffron to be.
Personally, I like to have a cup of Persian tea with a couple of dates after having eggplant sumac meatballs, I know you will like it too!
Eggplant Sumac Meatballs with Saffron Rice
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef 85 - 90 % lean
- 1 large onion
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 1/2 tbsp sumac
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp flour
- Olive oil to cook the meatballs about 2 tbsp
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 cup water
- 1 1/2 cup basmati rice
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp bloomed saffron
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with non stick spray.
- cut the eggplant into half lengthwise and rub olive oil on the cuts. Place the halves on the baking sheet cut side down and bake for 25-30 minutes until the flesh is cooked and soft.
- Meanwhile grate the onion, squeeze it and discard the excess water. Place it in a large bowl.
- Once the eggplant is cooked, turn the oven off and let the eggplant cool.
- Once cooled, scoop out the flesh and add it to the onion.
- Add beef, paprika, cumin, turmeric, sumac, salt, pepper and flour. Mix well until all the ingredients are incorporated.
- Make meatballs the size of a walnut. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Cook meatballs until they're brown on all sides.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce:
- Heat olive oil in a sauce pan. Saute onion until golden brown. Add tomato paste, salt and pepper. Cook for a minute. Add in pomegranate molasses and water. Bring to boil and simmer for 5-8 minutes.
- Add the sauce to the meatballs that are brown now and cook for about 20-25 minutes until the meatballs are completely cooked.
- Wash the rice 3 times and place it in a small pot. Add water until it reaches 1/2 inch above the rice. Put the pot over medium heat and cook uncovered until it starts boiling. Once the water is almost evaporated, cover the lid with a kitchen towel and place it on the pot. Cook for another 10 minutes until the rice is fully cooked.
- Add the bloomed saffron to the rice and mix using a fork. Serve with the meatballs.
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