Lamb Kofta

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I have been working on this recipe for a few weeks, which has meant that I have had outstanding leftovers in my fridge all the time. This lamb keeps so well. It tastes great cold from the fridge with nothing at all, but my neighborhood grocery store (shoutout to Morse Market in Rogers Park!) sells package of naan (Indian style flatbread) and my favorite way to eat this lamb is to take a piece of naan spreading some pesto and caramelized onion on it and then crumbling some of this lamb around and sticking it under the broiler for a few minutes. When it comes out, I sprinkle some pomegranate seeds and fresh parsley on top. (That’s how I take my leftovers. Seriously.)

There is not just one kind of Lamb Kofta. Kofta is a dish that can be found in a multitude of middle eastern and asian cuisines so you can go a lot of different ways with it. I myself have settled on two separate spice profiles, one that tilts toward South Asian and one more towards Turkish, both of which is mighty tasty and very different. I am giving you the first one. The second one is going to stay a secret. (And since it is more Turkish leaning, I think that one should be called Kofte and not Kofta. Why that one letter difference? I don’t know. If anyone does know, please educate me.)

This technique comes from The Guardian, a British publication with a really solid food section. Ottolenghi publishes a regular recipe column with them and the specific article with this recipe references his version of this dish. The basic technique here skips breadcrumbs and focuses on onion to bind the meat together. However, the onion is essentially ground to mush and then has all the water pressed out of it in a sieve to cut down on the onion flavor in the finished dish. You add a few fresh herbs and a few jarred spices as well as some ground pine nuts. Everything gets mixed together and rests in the fridge. I like to rest it overnight, but an hour is enough time to meld all the flavors.

There are three ways to cook the meatballs — you can grill them (the best way), you can pan fry them (very tasty but messy and never a fun activity in the summer), or you can stick them under the broiler for ten minutes (which works fine though you never get the even brown crust on the meat). When I grill or pan fry, I shape them into little logs. If I am sticking them under the broiler, I form small round balls.

If you cannot find ground lamb or just prefer to grind your own, you should use the shoulder cut of the lamb. And if you are grinding your own lamb, we should be friends.

Lamb Kofta
(Adapted from The Guardian)

3/4 pound of ground lamb
1 small white onion or half of a large onion, grated or processed
2 tablespoons pine nuts, ground or finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon mint leaves, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper

Make the onion and spice mixture and then add the lamb.

There are two ways to do the onion — if you have a food processor, use that to grind the onion into a mashy pulp. (I have a small one and I use it first to grind the pine nuts then I do the onion.) If you do not have a food processor, get out your box grater and use the large grates for the same result. Then put the onion into a fine mesh strainer. (If you do not have a fine mesh one, use a normal strainer lined with a little cheesecloth.) Press on the onion until all the water is squeezed out. (Then press it one more time. There is more water in there than you think there is.) Put the onion in a bowl and add the pine nuts, herbs and spices. Mix them together until the onion is evenly coated with spices. Then add the lamb and mix it all together. When dealing with meat, the less that the meat is touched by hands the better so mix it with a spoon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour and up to 8 hours.

Take the meat out of the fridge. Form the meat into small logs or balls. Here are the three cooking techniques.

Grilling: Lightly oil either the grate or the meat. (I never have much luck with oiling the grate so I lightly oil the meat.) Grill the meat over high heat for six to eight minutes depending on size, turning halfway through cooking so that the meat evenly browns. You want the meat to reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees for medium rare.

Pan fry: Heat two tablespoons of oil (canola or olive oil) in a frying pan. Cook the meat three to four minutes on each side until nicely browned. (Though I always end up rolling them around at the end to get more even browning.) Set on paper towels to drain.

Broiler: Pre-heat the broiler on high and line the meatballs up in a pyrex dish. Cook for ten to twelve minutes, turning halfway through cooking.

 

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