appetizer, Fish, Recipes, Sauces

Herbed Fishballs with Tomato-Chickpea Sauce

I prepare fried fish patties fairly often, but this time, I’ve decided to try something different; I formed the mixture into balls, and instead of frying them, I placed them over a tomato-chickpea sauce, inspired by the Moroccan-Jewish cuisine.
The experiment exceeded my expectations: the herbed fishballs came out so light and fluffy, and paired beautifully with the aromatic spicy sauce. The addition of chickpeas  gave the dish another layer of texture, and flavoring it with lemon and honey at the end of the cooking, added wonderful flavor and aroma.  The cooking time is fairly short, which keeps the fresh flavor of the herbs. To enhance it even further, I kept a bit of the chopped herbs on the side, and scattered them over the dish right before serving.
The fishballs can be served as is for a first course, or they can be served as a main course, over Israeli couscous, as shown here, or with any other starch you prefer. Try it and enjoy.

* I used vacuum packed steamed and peeled chickpeas. If you can’t find them, canned cooked chickpeas can be used instead. However, even though it’s a bit time consuming, I recommend peeling the chickpeas, as it gives better flavor and texture.
* Any other white firm fish can be used instead of flounder.
* Zhoug is a hot cilantro-jalapeno paste (click HERE for a recipe). It’s also available online.
* Click HERE for instructions on how to cook Israeli couscous.

Makes: 16 fishballs
Prep time: 20 minutes
Chilling time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes

For the fishballs:
1 cup packed parsley leaves, washed and dried
1 cup packed cilantro leaves, washed and dried
4 skinless boneless Flounder fillets (about 1 lbs/455 grams) (see notes)
2 L eggs
½ cup plain breadcrumbs
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 large garlic clove, finely grated
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp four peppers mix
For the sauce:
2 Tbs olive oil
1 large garlic clove,  finely diced
1 Tbs jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1 can (14.5 oz/411 grams) petite diced tomatoes (I used Hunt’s)
1 cup water
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp four peppers mix
2 tsp zhoug paste ( see notes)
1 tsp mild Harissa paste
1 Tbs tomato paste
½ tsp cumin powder
1 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp hot paprika
¼ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp allspice powder (or cinnamon)
9 oz/255 grams peeled and steamed chickpeas (see notes)
2 Tbs chopped herbs (from above)
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp honey (preferably orange blossom)

1. Chop fine the parsley and cilantro. Place ¾ of the herbs in a medium bowl. Keep the rest for the sauce for serving.
2. Pat-dry the fish fillets with paper towels. Cut into large pieces and place in a food processor bowl, fitted with the metal blade. Process coarsely, and transfer to the bowl with the herbs.
3. Add the eggs, breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Mix well, cover and keep in the fridge for 30 minutes, to let the mixture set.

4. Pour the oil into a medium flat pot. Add the garlic and jalapeno and sauté for a minute, over medium-high heat. Mix in the canned tomatoes and water, salt, pepper, zhoug, harissa, tomato paste and species, and bring to the verge of boiling. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes, mixing occasionally.

5. Mix in the chickpeas herbs and lemon zest. Cook for 10 minutes, mixing occasionally. Add the lemon juice and honey. Mix and taste to adjust seasoning.

6. Form about 16 fish balls from the fish mixture. Place them gently (they are quite soft) over the sauce, leaving a bit of space between them (they will puff up a bit while cooking).

7. Cover the pot, cook for 15 minutes, then gently turn the balls over. Cover again and cook for another 5 minutes. Turn of the heat, and keep in the covered pot for 10 minutes. Scatter the remaining chopped herbs on top and serve.

58 thoughts on “Herbed Fishballs with Tomato-Chickpea Sauce”

    1. Thank you Judi, I’m glad you liked the recipe. I was very glad to find peeled and steamed chickpeas. That’s an ingredient I plan to use often.
      As for Zhoug, as I recall, you’re not into cilantro, so it’s probably not for you. 🙂


  1. One eats first and foremost with one’s eyes ! This dish is definitely very inviting ! A longish list of ingredients bit, at the same time, containing mostly staples. Personally I have not been in the habit of using zhoug often – so perchance it is time to make some and prepare the dish .hopefully as attractive as yours . . . and enjoy !

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This looks wonderful. You’ve put yourself to task here and you seem to have hit a home run! I need to take a second look at the recipe and then I’ll decide if and when I can play with it. You always compel me to expand my horizons. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Dorothy, I’m glad you liked the dish. It came out so tasty and aromatic.
      As much as I love parsley, using it by itself here can be a bit too one-dimensional. I suggest adding other aromatic herbs instead – thyme or mint could work well here, or celery leaves. It will be interesting to see your version. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your fish cakes are an inspiration to get cracking on the Great Moroccan Experiment. My box of Moroccan-centric jars of goodies came last week, and I have embarked on sneaking up on some of the flavors – and the heat! My first attempt, with the shakshuka, turned out really good, but the “mild” harissa is still waiting in the wings. NOLA Boy says the harissa is not terribly hot, but it seemed pretty hot to me when I just tasted it on a spoon. Probably better when spread out in the whole dish.

    I got a jar of preserved lemons that I am anxious to try out. There is quinoa left from last night, so I will be experimenting with “Quinoa Morocco” today!

    Virtual hugs,

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ronit, when I saw the title to your post I was intrigued as fish balls are a very popular dish for youngsters in Sweden. Yours however reaches far above the canned fish balls I’m used to. I love fish patties and your sauce sounds amazing, especially the zhoug addition. We’ll pin this one to make on one of our upcoming cold fall nights.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Ron, I’m glad you liked the dish. It came out so tasty and aromatic. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
      You made me curious, so I Googled Swedish fishballs. Not sure I’d go with the canned options, but I liked the idea of using potatoes in the mixture, and the dill sauce sounds very good. Thanks for introducing! 🙂


    1. Thank you, I’m glad you liked the recipe. The mixture is quite soft and delicate, and the eggs help binding it, so eggs are quite essential. However, if you can’t use them, I suggest adding a bit of white flour to the mixture, and maybe increase the amount of breadcrumbs. Hope it helps! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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