Koftas, a name that comes from the Persian word for finely ground or minced, are not just dumplings—you’ll find them made from everything from eggs to fruit from Bucharest to Baghdad, Cairo to Kolkata—but perhaps the most popular version. it is made with lamb. Cheaper than buying whole cuts and quicker to cook, they’re also a delicious way to make relatively little go a long way.
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Homework 40 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
It serves 4-6
50g of pine nuts
2 small onions
1 small bunch of parsley
1 small bunch of mint
1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1½ teaspoons each of salt and black pepper
750 g minced lamb
For the çaçiki yogurt sauce (optional)
500 ml of natural yogurt
1 clove garlic
1 medium cucumber
½ teaspoon salt
2 scant teaspoons dried mintor a handful of fresh mint
For the flatbreads (optional)
300 g of common flourplus extra for dusting
75ml olive oil
1 A note on fat content
You can use just about any ground meat you like here, as long as it’s not too lean, though you may want to adjust the seasonings accordingly. If you are going to buy lamb at the butcher shop, ask for a fairly fatty cut such as the shoulder; if not, standard supermarket minced lamb will work just fine, but avoid low-fat versions, because they will dry out during cooking.
2 Grate the onions
Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until golden brown and allow to cool.
Peel and grate the onions; if you have a food processor use it, otherwise this will make you cry I’m afraid.
Place the grated onion in a colander, squeeze out and discard most of the liquid, then transfer to a large bowl.
3 Mix the herbs, spices and meat
Finely chop the parsley and mint leaves, discarding the tough stems, and add to the onion bowl.
Chop the cooled pine nuts coarsely and put them in the bowl as well, along with the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Finally, add the minced meat and mix well until everything is well combined; I find it easier to use my hands for this.
4 Shape koftas and chill
Shape the mixture into meatballs, flat patties, or sausage shapes or pack it around flat skewers, then cover and chill for at least an hour, and up to 48, if needed.
This will help keep the kofta intact during cooking, so don’t skip this step unless you’re really behind; even 15 minutes is better than nothing.
5 Start with the breads
For the pancakes, we put the flour in a bowl with a good pinch of salt. (Kofta are usually served with rice or potatoes, as well as various salads or grilled vegetables, such as peppers and tomatoes, which can all be cooked at the same time, but I also really like them rolled in soft, warm bread, ready to go. pitta, khobez or naan are even faster alternatives).
6 Finish the flatbread dough
Make a cutlet in the middle, pour in the oil and 100 ml of warm water, and bring everything together into a soft dough, adding a little more water if necessary.
Briefly knead until smooth and springy (this should take a couple of minutes max), then cover and let sit for 15 minutes while you prepare any other accompaniments.
7 Make the yogurt sauce
If you are making the çaçiki sauce, put the yogurt in a bowl and peel and finely grate or crush the garlic. Peel the cucumber, cut it in half lengthwise, then cut those halves in half horizontally and scoop out and discard the seeds.
Grate the pulp coarsely and stir it into the yogurt mixture with the salt and mint; Finely chop the leaves, if you use them fresh.
8 Cook the flatbreads…
Divide the dough in six and roll out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 2mm thick. Put a skillet on high heat, then cook the flatbreads in batches for two to three minutes on each side until they begin to brown and puff up.
Wrap cooked flatbreads in a kitchen towel to keep them warm and pliable.
9… and then the koftas
Lightly grease a frying pan, griddle or barbecue with oil, place over medium-high heat and, once hot, cook the koftas, turning them carefully, until they are cooked and golden on all sides (the time will depend on their shape, so cut them into one to check before removing from heat).
Serve with the flatbreads, yogurt and salad, or with your choice of sides.