Moroccan Beef and Veggie Bake
This Moroccan Beef and Veggie Bake is a flavorful rendition of a recipe I found in 2019. It’s filled with ground beef, couscous, tons of veggies, is delightfully spicy and topped with a fluffy cornbread. While not the most visually appealing, it’s full-bodied with mouth-watering spices and texture and may take you by surprise!
In fall of 2018 I stumbled on a Better Homes & Gardens fall recipe edition at the grocery store and while waiting in line, I skimmed the magazine and it was this recipe, entitled Moroccan Beef and Pumpkin Bake that sold me. I love pumpkin, cornbread, and spice so this recipe called out to me, and I promptly headed to the register. Now it isn’t fall at the moment, but I’ve cooked this dish countless times throughout the year and it has easily become one of our favorite dinners. In all transparency, the first time I made it we were incredibly disappointed. I thought I may have cooked it wrong or missed a step, so I entered it into my search engine and the reviews confirmed that it wasn’t just me. I saw the potential in this recipe and I decided to make it again, a bit differently and now we would gladly eat it weekly if we could.
I need to add a disclaimer that this meal may not be for you. It has unique flavors and spices and if that’s not your preference, that is okay, but I do encourage you to try it! My wings, pizza and beer loving husband now asks me to make this regularly and that makes my heart glow. A lot of love goes into this dish, it isn’t just a simple casserole and is actually quite healthy. Here I’ll share with you what I learned along the way, what changes were made and helpful hints to make this delicious meal!
The original recipe calls for pumpkin or squash to be used and it certainly can but that lends itself to a softer, mushy filling. Using sweet potatoes makes for a longer cooking time but gives this casserole a hardier feel and added texture.
This recipe uses ground beef, but we’ve had this with ground turkey and bison before. The ground beef, even lean is fattier and adds more flavor, but all varieties have tastes great.
The original recipe calls for a 2-quart baking dish which is typically an 8 x 8 pan for reference. I’ve doubled the number of vegetables and couscous as it makes the meat to vegetable to couscous ratio more proportionate without doubling other ingredients yet fills a 9 x 13 pan perfectly.
I double the cream cheese and use a full 8-ounce package for a creamier texture and to add more moisture however 4 ounces, or just half a package is just fine.
The most impactful change I’ve made is doubling, if not tripling the Moroccan spice blend and adding some other herbs and spices to make the flavor that much better. The amounts that I’ve listed in the recipe are tentative and are a base for what I typically add. I love a good, generous amount of spice so I just blend until it feels right. It may seem like a lot but do keep in mind that the spice is dispersed throughout an entire casserole. The original recipe has a very mild blend which left the meal pretty bland.
Nights when I’ve made this in a hurry, I’ve used a cornbread mix, followed the box instructions and poured it over the casserole but I’ve adapted the cornbread recipe from the first recipe. The buttermilk gives the cornbread a little lift and added baking powder makes it fluffier. The first time I made this, the cornbread fell flat so the changes I’ve made have helped. If using a boxed mix, I recommend Krusteaz (I use the gluten-free one and the Southern Cornbread one is good too!).
MOROCCAN BEEF AND VEGGIE BAKE
1 lb ground beef
2 ½ cups diced, peeled sweet potato (about 2 large potatoes)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
5 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup+ beef broth
1 cup couscous
4 to 8 ounces cream cheese, softened and cubed
Moroccan Spice Blend (see below)
Favorite cornbread recipe or this mixture below:
½ cup yellow cornmeal
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup buttermilk (milk works well too)
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon paprika
Moroccan Spice Blend:
2 teaspoons cumin
1 ½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander
1 ½ teaspoons ginger
½ teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon sage
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon parsley
Black pepper to taste
In a large skillet or even wok, cook ground beef; drain and add all vegetables including garlic (use cooking spray or a bit of olive oil if needed however the fat from the meat should keep vegetables from sticking). Cook on medium heat until sweet potatoes and vegetables are tender and the meat is browned. Add the beef broth and stir in couscous. Note that as the mixture cooks down, more beef broth may need to be added to keep potatoes tender and to cook the couscous.
In a small bowl, whisk spices until fully combined. Stir into meat and vegetable mixture. Simmer on low for about 15 minutes. Add cream cheese to pan, stirring until cream cheese is melted and thoroughly incorporated.
At this time, preheat oven to 400° and coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with nonstick-cooking spray or brush lightly using olive oil. I like to place the baking pan on a baking sheet to prevent mess from dripping. Pour meat and vegetable mixture into baking pan, spreading evenly with a spatula.
In a medium sized bowl, prepare cornbread recipe by whisking together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, egg, buttermilk, oil, and butter until just combined. Using a spatula, spread evenly over the mixture in baking dish. Sprinkle a bit of paprika or black pepper on top for an extra kick.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until cornbread on top is lightly crisp around the edges and golden brown.