Ground meat preparations are ubiquitous and occur in virtually every culinary tradition. However, there is one particular sort of meatball or patty whose range extends from India, where they are known as ‘Kofta’, through Iran, where they grace the table as ‘Kufteh’, and thence on to Turkey where cooks prepare yet another variety called ‘Köfte’. Elsewhere, from the Balkans, the Middle East, and North Africa, they occur as qofte, ćufta, kefta and kifta, and, although there are innumerable regional and national variations, it is clear the origin is the same. Today, I am preparing a variety that is almost as basic as you can get… It represents no actual variety in particular, but, with very few changes or substitutions, could stand in for just about any of the classic forms…
- 1lb Regular ground Beef;
- ¼ cup finely minced Onion;
- 4 tbsp. chopped fresh Parsley;
- 1 tsp. pureed Garlic;
tbsp. tsp. coarsely ground Black pepper;
- 1 tsp. Cumin Seed, dry roasted and ground;
- ½ tsp. Salt.
These Kofta use just beef but you can easily substitute, lamb, pork, chicken, or some combination of these depending on the sort of meal you will be serving.
The preparation method is nothing more complex than blending together the above ingredients. The consistency of the finished product will depend to some extent on the initial coarseness of the ground meat but can be thereafter be altered by the degree of mixing. You can make the finished texture quite smooth and refined by really beating the ingredients together vigorously, or leave it much more ‘burger’ like by stirring the ingredients together just a few times. It’s all just a matter of personal taste, of course, but some specific preparations will call for a particular texture.
The shape of each Kofta will vary from cuisine to cuisine and recipe to recipe. Balls, or balls flattened into small patties are used extensively, while the elongated tapered ‘torpedo’ shape you see above is quite common in Arabic cookery. Here, I have formed my Kofta into two distinct sizes as this batch is destined for a couple of different uses.
Depending on the finished dish, Kofta can be cooked many ways including being poached, steamed, baked or deep-fried. However, grilled (which is probably the oldest method) produces what I think are the best results…
There is no magic to the actual grilling… The length of time will obviously depend upon the size and you can usually use a very hot flame unless the Kofta are extremely large. The idea, of course, is to allow the caramelization and ‘grill-marking’ to add extra nuances of flavor to the meat.
Pan-frying can also produce very nice results and, if a ridged grill-pan is used, one can achieve a pretty decent approximation of flame-cooked Kofta even when the weather doesn’t permit out-door cookery.
The dish you see above uses some of the small, pan-fried Koftas…
I was preparing a batch of Zucchini for another recipe and I saved some to stir-fry with the Koftas in a sauce composed of chopped fresh tomatoes and a mild chili paste. The only other seasonings were salt and pepper and I served the whole in a bed of Turmeric Rice cooked with raisins and some chopped greens from our own greenhouse. The result isn’t based on any specific dish, and is vaguely Middle-Eastern or North-African in sprit, but it does illustrate the terrific flexibility of the Kofta…