Two countries create a dinner dish worthy of at least two stars.
I love a great meatball which is really what Kofte are. I am always on the lookout for new flavors to try. This recipe is from two different sources: A Turkish recipe from a woman called Defne Koryüek “the world’s most glamorous butcher-shop owner” whose shop is in Istanbul. And the spicy tomato sauce, which absolutely makes the dish, comes from the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Good Food. If you’re not familiar with Good Food, it’s a media juggernaut with a monthly magazine, website, app, and a series of books. It also does live events. Putting the two together created a glorious combination of the heat of Harissa, the cool of whole milk yogurt, the juiciness of the tomatoes and the sweetness of the lamb and beef patty which is minimally seasoned. To truly appreciate the dish, try to make sure each bite contains all three elements.
The surprising reach of a dish known all over the Middle East and beyond.
Intrigued by the fact that under the same “Kofte” umbrella, one dish was Turkish and the other Moroccan, I searched Wikipedia for an answer. Never mind Turkey and Morocco, koftes are the pride and joy of the following: Albania, Central Asia, the Balkans, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece, India, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Romania, and Turkey. The commonality is the word “Kofta”. It comes from the verb in classical Persian, “koftan” which means “to pound” or “to grind”. At last, the common ground is the use of ground meat—usually beef, chicken, pork or lamb. Except when in Cyprus and Greece where there are vegetarian versions. India has both meat and vegetarian and there are even versions that use shrimp and fish.
How to improve on perfection…making the perfect Kofte and a sauce that’s out of this world.
The oval-shaped Kofta are small and this recipe is for 6 people. That’s how I ended up serving them the first night on a bed of mashed potatoes with garlic naan on the side. They were perfectly good but so mildly spiced that they were not exactly the most inspiring of dishes. The second time around they more than delivered on great taste. The first job here is to make the Kofte. They are traditionally oval in shape as they are here. I made them about 2 inches long and 1 ½ inch wide. There are plenty of recipes in which the Kofte are then skewered so that they can be grilled. I have a stovetop griddle that gave the Kofte nice grill marks without the need for the skewers. The sauce is a snap to make. Harissa can be found at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and of course, on Amazon. I prefer whole milk Greek yogurt which has more body than its low-fat cousins. Your call. Here are some Middle Eastern recipes –one that may surprise you—you might like to try followed by the recipe for this one.
Lamb and Beef Kofte in a Spicy Tomato Sauce
A take on Meatballs that takes your palate to almost anywhere in the Middle East. Delightfully spicy sauce enhances every bite of these mildly flavored patties.
- For the Kofte
- 3 ounces stale baguette (about 1/3 of a standard baguette), torn into small pieces
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound ground beef chuck
- 1/2 pound ground lamb
- Olive oil, for brushing
- Warm pita bread or naan, for serving
- For the Sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 2 x 400g (14.5 oz.) cans chopped tomato
- 1-2 tsp harissa
- 1 tsp sugar
- 6 oz. tub Greek yogurt
- 2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts
- Step 1 To make the Kofte, in a large bowl, soak the bread in the hot water until absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, parsley, egg, salt, and pepper and knead until combined. Knead in the beef and lamb until combined.
- Step 2 Line a large baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using moistened hands, roll the meat mixture into 18 oval patties. Cover and refrigerate the patties for at least 1 hour. Make the sauce while the Kofte are chilling.
- Step 3 To make the sauce, heat the oil in a pan, add the garlic and briefly fry. Add tomatoes, harissa, sugar, and seasoning. Simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 mins until the sauce has thickened.
- Step 4 Grill the kofte for 6-8 mins, turning until they are nicely browned. Spoon the sauce over a warm platter, drizzle over the yogurt and put the kofte on top. Scatter with pine nuts and serve with pitas or naan.