Thursday, April 22, 2010

so finally I got around to the koftas

I dont really feel like giving you a lecture tonight about meatballs but they are highly interesting in a geographical kind of way, yet at the same time really quite boring.  Concieved as a brilliant disguise for left over meat, as far as I can see there is no hard and fast recipe, be it lamb, pork or beef or combination of all seems not to matter.
It's a bit like bread really, there seem to be several thousand different connotations of a recipe depending on where you are in the world - here is a short summary of just a few, most of which I have eaten at one stage or another except for the Albanian variety.
  • Danish meatballs are known as frikadeller and are typically fried, and they are usually made from pork.
  • Albanian fried meatballs (Qofte të fërguara) have feta cheese in them.
  • In Germany (I should know about this) meatballs are typically more complex and compliated, at least in name - they are called Frikadellen in the North, Buletten in the East and Fleischpflanzerl or Fleischküchle if you happen to be in the South. A very famous variant of meatballs are Königsberger Klopse which contain anchovy or salted herring and are eaten with caper sauce.
  • Grecian meatballs are called 'keftedes' and include onions and mint leaf.
  • Perhaps most familiar to us are are know as polpette in Italy.  We serve this with tagliatelle or pasta but they are traditionally served in the South of Italy as a second course with fresh mozarella. 
  • Swedish köttbullar aka Swedish meatballs, most commonly known as Ikea meatballs ,are made with ground beef or a mix of ground beef and pork, mixed with breadcrumbs soaked in milk and finely chopped onions. They are seasoned with salt and white pepper and are traditionally served with gravy, boiled potatoes, lingonberry jam, and fresh pickled cucumber.
  • The Turkish population also have a reported 80 different types of meatball (köfte), all regional variations.
So take your pick, they are all good. 
I like the heavily spiced, flavoursome Eastern meatballs (Koftas) which are sausage-shape cooked on skewers - these make perfect nibbles for a drinks party or lunch, but I do find them slightly heavy for a starter.
The word Kofta is derived from Persian kūfta or kuftan(pl), meaning 'to beat' or 'to grind'.  In their most simple form they are made from beef or lamb mixed with spices and onions.  They can sometimes be made with fish or vegetables rather than meat, especially in India where beef is a rareity (for obvious religious reasons).

Koftas in South Asian cuisine are normally cooked in a spicy curry and sometimes with whole pre-boiled eggs. Sometimes the eggs are encased in a layer of the spicy kofta meat so that the final product resembles an Indian Scotch egg.

An interesting aside about Scotch Eggs!!...

Where did they come from?  An internet search immediately answered with the popular fact that apparently Scotch Eggs were invented by none other than Fortnum & Mason in 1738. 
I find it very hard to believe that this was a completely out-of-the-blue invention (very few things are really) - in India and Southern Asia, koftas are normally cooked in spicy curried sauce but with a whole hard boiled egg inside.  Now unless the entire Asian community visited F&M and bought hardboiled eggs wrapped in ground pork in 1738, I do doubt that the recipe direction went West to East ... more like the other way around!

Despite their origin, I love Scotch eggs and an impending picnic this Saturday due to the apparently unprecedented warm weather (it is to be in the late teens) that we will be having, has brought on my wish to make watch this meatball space.

Moving swiftly away from Scotch eggs....(if you are still with me!) I made Lamb Koftas this evening with a slightly different recipe than I normally do.  They were good, sweet, soft and full of flavour.  The slightly sharp tatziki is an exellent accompaniment - the flat bread attempt was a husband claimed it was good with butter, so is cardboard!  Lets say no more.

For about 16 lamb Koftas, which should serve four for substantial nibbling, you will need:

500g minced (Irish) lamb
half an onion, chopped as finely as you can, without injury
a large handful of chopped coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
3 garlic cloves, beaten to a pulp
fine sea salt and black pepper

Mix everything in a large bowl and, in a rather satisfactory way, squeeze between your fingers until all the spices have been as evenly combined as you can manage.  You can at this point fry a wee tester to see how the seasoning is and add whatever you think it might need.

Shape into sausages - the fun bit, for which I had two willing helpers!

Fry these in light olive oil  for between 10 and 15 minutes until they are brown on the outside.  To serve, stick a cocktail stick in one end, add some hummus or tzatziki and a flat bread or stuffed into a pitta pocket with tzatziki...
These are great for parties, easy to eat and taste great.


  1. Oh, I'll have to try these -- I've been wanting to give my daughter a bit of red meat now and then. I have that blue and white bowl too!

  2. Hi ya, my boys (4 and 2.5) loved these little sausages on a stick! They would be great for a picnic also....its funny you spotted the bowls - I got a whole set of this tableware for a wedding present from my good friends in Berlin! They are used every day in our house and everyone comments on how nice they are ... another good thing to come from Berlin!