Saturday, March 25

How to make lamb koftas – recipe | Food

Koftas, a name that comes from the Persian word to grind or finely chop, aren’t just meatballs – you’ll find them made from everything from eggs to fruit from Bucharest to Baghdad, Cairo to Kolkata – but perhaps the most broadly popular version is made with lamb. Cheaper than buying whole cuts, and quicker to cook, too, they’re a delicious way to make relatively little go a very long way.

Prep 40 minutes
chill 1hr+
Cook 15 minutes
serves 4-6

50g pine nuts
2 small onions
1 small bunch parsley
1 small bunch mint
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1½ tsp each salt and black pepper
750g lamb mince
to grease

For the çaçiki yoghurt sauce (optional)
500ml plain yogurt
1 garlic clove
1 medium cucumber
½ tsp salt
2 scant tsp dried mint
or a small handful of fresh mint

For the flatbreads (optional)
300g plain flourplus extra for dusting
75ml olive oil

1 A note on fat content

You can use just about any minced meat you like here, so long as it isn’t too lean, though you may wish to adjust the seasonings accordingly. If you’re buying lamb at the butchers, ask for a fairly fatty cut such as shoulder; if not, standard supermarket lamb mince will work fine, but avoid the lower-fat versions, because they’ll dry out during cooking.

2 Grate the onions

Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until golden, then set aside to cool.

Peel and grate the onions; if you have a food processor use it, because otherwise this will make you cry, I’m afraid.

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02a lamb koftas 022 f.  Grated onion stage.

Put the grated onion in a sieve, squeeze out and discard most of the liquid, then transfer to a large bowl.

3 Mix in the herbs, spices and meat

Finely chop the parsley and mint leaves, discarding the tough stems, and add to the onion bowl.

the bowl of chopped herbs

Roughly chop the cooled pine nuts and put them in the bowl, too, along with the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

All the spices for the koftas: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, salt and pepper

Finally, add the mince and mix well until everything is thoroughly combined; I find it easiest to use my hands for this.

Mixing spices, mince, herbs.

4 Form into koftas and chill

Form 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 necessary.

Form into koftas thread on to skewers and chill

This will help keep the kofta intact during cooking, so don’t skip this step unless you really are running late; even 15 minutes is better than nothing.

5 Start on the breads

For the flatbreads, put the flour in a bowl with a good pinch of salt. (Kofta are very commonly served with rice or potatoes, as well as various salads or grilled vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes, which can be cooked at the same time, but I very much like them rolled up in soft warm bread, too – ready -made pitta, khobez or naan are even quicker alternatives.)

Making flatbread dough by pouring oil into flour.

6 Finish the flatbread dough

Make a divot in the middle, pour in the oil and 100ml warmish water, and bring it all together into a soft dough, adding a little more water if needed.

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Make the flatbreads: mix oil, warm water and salt into the flour, bring into a dough, and knead briefly

Knead briefly until smooth and elastic (this should take a couple of minutes at most), then cover and leave to rest for 15 minutes while you prepare any other accompaniments.

7 Make the yogurt sauce

If you’re making the çaçiki sauce, put the yoghurt in a bowl and peel and finely grate or crush in the garlic. Peel the cucumber, cut it in half lengthways, then cut those halves in half horizontally and scoop out and discard the seeds.

Peel and core the cucumber, then grate into garlicky yoghurt and stir in salt and fresh or dried mint to taste

Coarsely grate the flesh and stir that into the yoghurt mix with the salt and mint – finely chop the leaves, if you’re using fresh.

8 Cook the flatbreads …

Divide the dough into six and roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 2mm thick. Put a frying pan over a high flame, then cook the flatbreads in batches for two or three minutes on each side until they start to brown and puff up.

Divide the flatbread dough into six and roll out to about 2mm thick.  Cook in a hot pan, then keep warm.

Wrap the cooked flatbreads in a tea towel to keep them warm and pliable.

9 … and then the koftas

Lightly grease a frying pan, griddle or barbecue with oil, then put on a medium-high flame and, once hot, cook the koftas, turning carefully, until cooked through and golden brown on all sides (how long that will take will depend on their shape, so cut into one to check before taking them all off the heat).

09a lamb koftas 138 f 9Grill the koftas until browned and cooked through, then serve with the flatbreads, yoghurt sauce and salad

Serve with the flatbreads, yoghurt and salad, or your choice of accompaniments.

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