I have always felt that the name of this dish, Dawood Basha, was far more interesting that the dish itself; it was named after a high-ranking official (a Basha) appointed by the Ottomans who reigned supreme throughout the region from their palaces in Istanbul . My grandmother lived through this period of history and passed on many tales to me, the eager listener, while she was busy preparing dumplings in the kitchen or embroidering in her bedroom.
This dish was always included in our school cafeteria menu. When the tomato paste is omitted, the sauce turns dark (especially if the onions are caramelized); a popular version includes a touch of pomegranate molasses to the sauce; I felt like adding the lilting taste of slivers of orange rind to it.
INGREDIENTS: 4 servings
- ½ lb. lean ground beef or lamb or a combo
- 3 yellow onions, one chopped and sprinkled with salt, the other sliced
- 1 egg yolk (optional)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. each cinnamon and allspice
- 2 cups beef broth (substitute water and a bouillon cube)
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 2 tbsp. orange rind (substitute pomegranate molasses) or slivers orange peel
- 2 Tbsp. cornstarch diluted in ½ cup water
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil or clarified butter
- 1/3 cup pine nuts or sliced almonds toasted till golden or fried in 1 Tbsp. oil and drained
- Place the meat in a food processor and add the spices, egg yolk, chopped onion and process until smooth. Form small balls (a cookie dough scooper is easy to use for that purpose); pour the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and fry the onion slices till softened; add the meatballs and brown them. Add the 2 cups of beef stock along with the tomato paste, and orange slivers (or orange rind). Cover the pot and let the mixture bubble up gently for 15 minutes until the liquid is reduced and the meatballs are thoroughly cooked.
- If you find the sauce needs it, remove the meatballs and bring the sauce to a simmer; add the cornstarch mixture and stir for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens. Transfer the meatballs back in the skillet, add the pine nuts and serve warm with rice.
NOTE: This dish can be prepared with ¼ cup pomegranate molasses instead of tomato paste.This building, a former palace from that time period, is being prepped for a music festival this Summer (Chouf Mountains)