Kofta

I'm a little sad that this is my last post about Sue's 50th birthday party.  My only regret is that I didn't get enough pictures!  I can't believe I forgot to take pictures of the kofta and saffron chicken on the buffet.  We did have some leftovers, so I was able to make a small plate with kofta and a little heaping of Beans with hazelnuts and orange as well as Spiced Chickpea salad.  So, you might be wondering what exactly is Kofta?  Basically, it is a Middle Eastern meatball.  It is made of ground lamb and ground beef along with pine nuts and various spices.  The name "kofta" is derived from the Persian word "to grind".  Grinding the ground meats in a food processor allows it to become very tender.  The koftas are usually formed into a torpedo shape vs. a ball.  In Jerusalem: A Cookbook,  they recommend serving the kofta with a tahini sauce, which we did, but in other Middle Eastern cultures they may serve kofta with tzatziki. 

The most challenging thing about this recipe was finding the lamb meat.  As you may expect, lamb is a sparse commodity in St. Louis grocery stores.  I called my local butcher, but they did not carry lamb.  I looked at bigger grocery chains, no luck there.  Finally, I tried a family owned store called World Wide International Market at the corner of Dunn Road and N. Lindbergh in Hazelwood.  Jackpot!  When Mike and I first entered the store, the smell of exotic spices welcomed us.  Refrigerators and freezers lined the left side of the first aisle.  They were filled to the brim with pita and pre-made items.  As I was slowly taking everything in, with my back turned to Mike, I asked him if he thought if they carried lamb meat.  Unbeknownst to me Mike wondered around to the back of the store.  All of a sudden, I heard Mike laughing.  I journeyed back to where he was, and realized why he was laughing.  Yes, they had lamb.  Many of them...skinned and hanging up in a row on display in a glass cooler. {Sorry for that mental image if you are vegetarian.}  I actually thought of snapping a picture, but I thought it might be too graphic for some.  Anyway, we were able to purchase freshly ground lamb at that store.  I also picked up some spices, Labneh (also spelled Labna, which is a yogurt), fresh soft cheese (labeled Arabic cheese), and freshly made pita.  I can't wait to go back to this store and explore it further.  

At this point, let me give a big shout out to my wonderful hubby who cooked the meat the morning of the party.  While I'm at it, thank you Helen and Ed, Sue's mom and dad, for feverishly setting up and beautifully decorating the room and garden patio with me at Old Orchard Gallery for the party.   And, after all that Ed and Helen left to go get Sue and brought her back for her surprise.    

I enjoyed every moment planning this surprise for Sue.  Thanks to everyone who attended the party, I'm sure you made the day special for Sue.  Here's to good food and gladness!

CLICK HERE for a printer friendly recipe.  Makes approximately 24 koftas, each 3 oz.

Ingredients for Kofta with Tahini sauce

  • 1.5 lb of minced lamb
  • 1.5 lb of minced ground sirloin
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) pine nuts, toasted then rough chop
  • 30 g (heaping 1/4 cup) flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 red chili pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp ground or grated nutmeg
  • 1.5 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1.5 tsp coarse salt
  • cooking oil (canola, sunflower, or peanut)

for the tahini sauce

  • 150 g (1.5 cups) tahini paste
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil (or olive oil)
  • water

Directions for Kofta with tahini sauce

  1. Place ground lamb and ground sirloin into a food processor.  Pulse the meat in the processor about 5 - 10 times to soften the texture.
  2. In a large bowl, place the meat, nuts, and spices together.  Mix using your hands.  Weigh out 3 oz of the meat mixture and shape into a long, finger-like torpedo about 3 to 4 inches long.  Press the mixture to compress it to ensure the kofta will maintain its shape.  Arrange on a plate and chill until ready for cooking.
  3. Preheat oven to 395 degrees F (* see step 4.  Oven may be optional)
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, 1/4 tsp salt.  The sauce should be the consistency of warmed honey.  Add a few tsp of water to thin if needed.
  5.  In a large fry pan, add cooking oil to cover the bottom of the pan.  Heat over high setting on stove.  Sear the kofta, in small batches, until golden brown on each side.  Kofta should be medium rare.  If you prefer medium or well done, arrange kofta on a baking tray and place in the oven for 2 to 4 minutes. 
  6. Place kofta on a serving platter.  Lightly drizzle the tahini sauce over the kofta, and reserve some sauce to accompany on the side.  Scatter with pine nuts and sprinkle with parsley.  Serve immediately.