How to make lamb koftas – recipe – The Guardian

How to make the traditional Levantine lamb mince meatballs in easy-to-follow steps
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 min
Chill 1 hr+
Cook 15 min
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 yoghurt
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 flour, plus extra for dusting
75ml olive oil

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.
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.
Put the grated onion in a sieve, squeeze out and discard most of the liquid, then transfer to a large bowl.
Finely chop the parsley and mint leaves, discarding the tough stems, and add to the onion bowl.
Roughly chop the cooled pine nuts and put them in the bowl, too, along with the 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.
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.
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.
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.)
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 need be.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wrap the cooked flatbreads in a tea towel to keep them warm and pliable.
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).
Serve with the flatbreads, yoghurt and salad, or your choice of accompaniments.


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