I am in contact with a new blogger, who thinks himself a bit of a foodie. He is. We argue about the way to make sauces, jus and gravy, but he tends to be on the ball all the time. He will be featured much more, I hope; but for now, here brings you kofte kebabs for our two weeks of British barbecue weather. Make them fast, the sun won’t last forever! You can read his foodie blog and restaurant reviews here: http://www.quantumleaps.org.uk/blog or you can tweet him or give him a follow here: @QuantumLeapsCK
The term “kofte” is as ambiguous as, say, “balti”. At its core, it basically means balls of spiced ground meat. Only, unlike balti, which literally means “bucket” and is relatively bound to cuisines originating in and around the Indian sub-continent, the geographic reach of kofte is immeasurably further.
The Balkans, Middle East, North Africa, countries in and around the Indian sub-continent all have their own varieties and subtly different spellings. One can also run the argument that the quintessentially British Scotch egg is based on the Moghul nargisi kofta, where a hard-boiled egg is wrapped in the local kofte meat.
Depending on the abundant agricultural resource and religious beliefs, the base meat ranges from lamb to mutton to beef or pork and even versions based on paneer where vegetarianism is the predominant tradition and I have seen references in my research to fish too!
The method of service is almost as varied as the method of preparing the meat balls but fall into two large categories – in a sauce, usually a spiced tomato based one, or without but obviously with a wide range of dips, salsas and salads.
This confusing plethora of traditions for kofte renders writing a universal and definitive recipe impossible. But what it should signal to the budding chef is that this is an incredibly versatile dish. As I write this, we are entering the (alleged) British summer which will see barbeques lit with surprising regularity each weekend up and down the country.
What a good kofte base mix provides the hard pressed homemaker in preparing for such a barbeque is unrivalled options and flexibility. The kofte mix can be made into skewers and chargrilled, it can be made into patties and chargrilled to make versions of lamb burgers, turned into balls and fried/grilled and then added to sauce. It can be made into kebabs with various vegetables, halloumi cheese and other meats. And it’ll almost certainly go with whatever dips, sauces and salads you’re already preparing.
The final product should also freeze, if the meat wasn’t already frozen, so can be reused later if you make too much, or it rains, or even prepared days in advance (thoroughly defrosted on the day of course)
So, what I propose to do here is recite how I make a Kofte mix, and leave it to your imagination how you cook it thereafter. The bread, incidentally, helps give the kofte a smoother texture, but importantly, helps it retain all the flavourful juices that would otherwise escape!
Makes about 30 ping pong ball sized kofte:
- 175g white bread, crusts removed, cut into small cubes
- 4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped or crushed
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- Splash of oil (including a little sesame oil if to hand)
- 2lb good quality minced lamb, not too lean
- 2 heaped tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp dried parsley
- 1 tbsp dried coriander leaf
- 1 tsp dried mint
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 1 egg, beaten
- In a bowl, add the bread and sprinkle 5 tbsp water over it. Toss it around about and let the water soak into the bread for 10 minutes.
- In a splash of oil, over a low heat, soften the onion and garlic for a few minutes. Any oil to hand will do, but an extra dash of toasted sesame oil will add to the flavour if you have it to hand.
- Add the onions and garlic to the bread mix (if they are cool enough) and work it with your hands into a bread paste.
- In a separate, large bowl, add the mince, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, parsley, coriander leaf and mint. If you don’t have both parsley and coriander leaf, you can use 3 tbsp of either) and mush it up together with your hands. You want to get the mince to no longer look like separate strands, but it coming together like a homogenous mix.
- Add in the bread paste and knead the whole mix thoroughly. Finally, add in the egg and continue mixing until it is all combined.
- With lightly floured hands, take ping ball sized amounts and mould them into a ball, ensuring the mix is well compressed. Cook them as you see fit.
You can also use a burger maker to make the mix into patties (or, as I sometimes do, I take a large muffin tray, and use them as moulds), or mould the mix around skewers. If you’re using metal ones, lightly wipe the skewer with oil before use, and if using wood, soak them in water for ten minutes first. Generally speaking, about 20 minutes over greying charcoal should do nicely!