KOftas, a name that comes from the Persian word for “grind” or “finely chop,” aren’t just meatballs — you’ll find them made from everything from eggs to fruit, from Bucharest to Baghdad, from Cairo to Kolkata — but maybe the most common version is made with lamb. They’re cheaper than buying whole pieces and quicker to cook too. They’re a delicious way to get relatively little going a very long way.
preparation 40 mins
Relax 1 hr+
Cook 15 minutes
50 grams of pine nuts
2 small onions
1 small bunch of parsley
1 small bunch of mint
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1½ tsp each salt and black pepper
750 g minced lamb
Oil, to smear
For the çaçiki yoghurt sauce (optional)
500 ml natural yoghurt
1 clove of garlic
1 medium cucumber
½ tsp salt
2 teaspoons dried mintor a small handful of fresh mint
For the flatbreads (optional)
300 grams of regular flourplus extra for dusting
75 ml olive oil
1 note on fat content
You can use just about any ground beef you like here as long as it’s not too lean, although you may want to adjust the seasonings accordingly. If you’re buying lamb from the butcher, ask for a fairly fatty cut like shoulder; If not, regular grocery store ground lamb works well, but avoid the lower-fat versions as they will dry out during cooking.
Grate 2 onions
Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until golden brown, then allow to cool.
peel and grate onions; If you have a food processor, use it or you’ll be crying from it I’m afraid.
Place the grated onion in a sieve, squeeze and collect most of the liquid, then transfer to a large bowl.
Mix in 3 herbs, spices and meat
Finely chop the parsley and mint leaves, remove the hard stalks and add to the onion bowl.
Roughly chop the cooled pine nuts and add to the bowl along with the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Finally add the ground beef and mix well until well blended; I find it easiest to use my hands for this.
Shape into 4 koftas and chill
Form the mixture into meatballs, flat patties, or sausage shapes, or wrap around flat skewers, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and up to 48 hours if needed.
This will help keep the kofta intact during cooking, so don’t skip this step unless you’re really running late; Even 15 minutes is better than nothing.
5 Start with the loaves
For the flatbreads, place the flour in a bowl with a good pinch of salt. (Kofta are often served with rice or potatoes, along with various salads or grilled vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes, which can be cooked at the same time, but I also like them rolled up in soft, warm bread – done – pita made, khobez or naan are even faster alternatives.)
6 Finish the flatbread dough
Make a well in the middle, pour in the oil and 100ml of lukewarm water and knead until you have a soft dough, adding a little more water if necessary.
Knead briefly until smooth and elastic (this should take a few minutes at most), then cover and let rest 15 minutes while you prepare other side dishes.
7 Prepare the yoghurt sauce
If you do that çaçiki Put the yoghurt in a bowl and peel and finely grate or crush the garlic. Peel the cucumber, cut in half lengthways, then cut those halves in half horizontally and scrape out the seeds and discard.
Roughly grate the flesh and stir into the yoghurt mixture along with the salt and mint – chop the leaves finely if using fresh.
8 Bake the flatbreads…
Divide the dough into six parts and roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 2mm thick. Place a skillet over a high heat, then batch-bake the flatbreads, two to three minutes on each side, until they begin to brown and puff up.
Wrap the cooked flatbreads in a tea towel to keep them warm and pliable.
9 … and then the koftas
Lightly grease a skillet, griddle or grill with oil, then place over medium-high heat and cook the koftas when hot, turning them gently until cooked through and golden brown on all sides ( how long this takes depends on their shape, so cut them into one to check before removing them all from the heat).
Serve with flatbread, yoghurt and salad or a side dish of your choice.