Kufteh (Meatballs)

Koofteh, kufteh, kofte, kofta – there are many names for this type of meatball or meatloaf common in many countries of the Middle East region. They can be many different sizes and shapes, sometimes cooked in a sauce, sometimes sauteed alone, the meat mixture can even be skewered on a kebab and grilled. Usually, they are made of beef or lamb mixed with onion, herbs and other fillers.

I’ve tried two different kinds of kufteh so far this month, one was from my new favorite blog of the month, http://mypersiankitchen.com/koofteh-hulu/ The ground turkey is perhaps less traditional, but with a lower fat content than the typical ground beef or lamb – and they’re filled with a sweet onion and raisin filling. I followed the recipe as written, except I only used  tsp. of salt with the cooking water (I think that was a typo?). The recipe also didn’t specify when the grated carrots get added, but based on the blog photos I added them after processing the meat mixture, and before forming the meatballs.

I ate the kufteh hulu with some wheat pita and a spinach yogurt mixture – made with thawed frozen spinach, greek yogurt, dill, oregano, salt and pepper to taste.

The other recipe didn’t go so well. It tasted great, but the large meatballs which were meant to be “orange-sized” fell apart as I was cooking them. I think this happened for a couple of reasons, the main one being that I didn’t cook the rice and yellow split peas quite long enough to be mashable, so the mixture did not form the paste that it was supposed to. The flavor was very nice though, so I just ate is as a kind of stew instead!

I think if you follow the recipe below, it should work out ok, but if I were doing it again, I’d probably make the meatballs a little smaller, and maybe brown them first as suggested in the first recipe mentioned above. That should help them to hold together better.

Kufteh berenji (rice meatballs)
1/2 c. yellow split peas (I used some split chickpeas that I had on hand)
1 c. short grain white rice
1/2 tsp. salt

Peas and rice should be cooked together until tender in about 4 c. water with the 1/2 tsp. salt, probably about 30 minutes. But make sure that the peas are completely tender, and add more water if needed. After cooking, drain the rice mixture and reserve the cooking juice – it’s used for the broth later.

2 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. summer savory, dried
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix these ingredients together in a mixing bowl and beat well. Then add:

1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb. ground beef or lamb
1 large bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 c. fresh dill, chopped
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
cooked split peas and rice

Knead the mixture by hand or mix with an electric mixer for 10 minutes, until it forms a paste. Shape the mixture into 6 large balls (if the mixture is too sticky, dip your hands in cold water to help form the balls). Make the broth;

2 onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz. tomato juice
2 c. water
2 c. beef broth
1/4 c. lime juice
1 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground saffron, dissolved in a little hot water

In a large pot, saute onion and garlic until nicely browned. Add liquid and stir well. Add juice reserved from cooking the rice and peas. Add spices and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, and then gently add the meatballs. Partly cover and simmer for 1 hour, occasionally spooning broth over the meatballs so they don’t dry out. Serve hot with bread and yogurt or sour cream.

Adapted from: Persian Cooking for a Healthy Kitchen, by Najmieh Batmanglij

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