Syrian Style Meatballs with Cherries

by Sarah on October 6, 2010

syrian meatballs with cherries

In Israel the “Holidays” or Hagim as they are locally known, arrived very early this year, smack after summer vacation. Almost as soon as the school year started, the kids were shuffled out again to the great consternation of everyone but the teachers. Many families, without much choice, take this opportunity to travel in Israel and abroad, creating traffic jams in their wake and filling the national parks to over capacity

It is also a time of national procrastination; the answer to almost every question is “after the holidays”. Many businesses and shops are closed or are open only part time so that any work oriented plans are usually postponed. The best thing to do is to stay home and avoid the crowds, spending time with family and friends.

That’s exactly what we did. Here is a recipe I made for a dinner party I hosted.

Syrian Style Meatballs with Cherries

Kebab Garaz

Cherries are way out of season now so I used dried cherries instead. Traditionally, St. Lucie (Prunus mahaleb L.) is used to make this dish, a small sour cherry that grows in Syria.  It is the same variety used to produce the aromatic spice, mahlab.

These meatballs are a little bit different since instead of leaving the pinenuts whole I ground them up by accident. I must have been reading several recipes at once and wasn’t paying much attention. In any case this gives the meatballs an interesting flavor and texture.

Inspired by Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck


500 grams (1 pound) ground  meat

1/2 cup ground pinenuts

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper


3 onions, cut in half and sliced thinly

1 cup dried cherries, soaked in 1 cup of water

1/2 teaspoon tamarind concentrate or juice of half a lemon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

Olive oil

A few tablespoons of green onions for garnish

Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs and knead well. Form small meatballs the size of a walnut. Brown on all sides, preferably in a cast iron pan. A well seasoned iron pan is nonstick and needs very little oil. The meatballs will continue cooking in the sauce so it is not necessary to cook until done.

For the sauce sauté the onions in olive oil until golden brown. Add the dried cherries, the soaking liquid, tamarind concentrate and allspice. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Add the meatballs and simmer for 30 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and tender. Add more water if the sauce dries out. Serve on toasted halves of pita bread or with white rice.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Miriam/The Winter Guest October 6, 2010 at 1:07 am

Anything with allspice in it must be delicious… gorgeous photo!


Yael October 6, 2010 at 1:14 am

Looks very delicious. We certainly need to try this recipes, i like the combination of meat and fruit.


Cherine October 6, 2010 at 2:59 am

Looks fabulous!


Jamie October 8, 2010 at 12:17 am

Sarah I’ve seen a similar recipe in Claudia Roden’s book and have wanted to make it for years but never have. Yours looks and sounds so delicious that I may have to get to it soon. I’ll blend the two recipes. I love meat with cherries.


Mimi October 11, 2010 at 10:59 am

Looks easy and delicious. Another Foodbridge keeper!


Sarah October 11, 2010 at 11:30 am

thanks Mimi, If you have the patience to wait until next spring you can make it with fresh cherries


pigpigscorner October 15, 2010 at 6:40 am

I bought a bottle of allspice and used only a teaspoon. This is another great way to use up that bottle!


Kasey October 16, 2010 at 11:25 am

Who doesn’t love meatballs? I love the savory/sweet combo.


Josie January 21, 2011 at 9:45 am

I have never tried a sweet and savoury combination when it comes to meatballs.. just the traditional italian kind. This sounds pretty good though, i reckon i could give it a go!


Sarah January 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm

thanks Josie, sweet and savory is popular all over the Middle East and North Africa, especially combinations of dried fruits and meat


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