I was a little harsh about my oldest in that New York Times interview the other day. It’s true that a few years ago he was a starchitarian (all carbs, all the time), but he has branched out. Kofta Kebabs are his new favorite food; he asks me to make them about once a week.
*Will he eat fruit or vegetables willingly? No, not yet. I keep hoping…
Kofta is a Middle Eastern dish of ground meat mixed with onion and spices. (Think Middle Eastern meatloaf.) The Kebab version is popular in Turkey and India, where kofta is wrapped around a long skewer and spices on a skewer. (Meatloaf on a stick!)
This was a tough recipe to get right. I loved the taste, and if I made them into hamburger-style patties, everything worked fine. But wanted to cook them on kebabs – it felt more authentic, and there’s something about food on a skewer that makes it taste better.
But – the ground meat mix wouldn’t hold together. I think it was the frozen ground lamb I was buying at the farmers market. After thawing out, it was always kind of wet. I couldn’t get the resulting kebabs to stick. The moment I let go, they would drop off the skewer onto the counter. I’d re-form them as hamburgers, and they would hold together just enough for cooking.
I switched to fresh ground lamb and the recipe started to work. It also helps to have extra wide skewers, like these 3/8 inch wide skewers from Steven Raichlen.
*That said, it is a little tricky getting the meat to stick on the skewers. I won’t judge you if you take the easy way out and form the kofta into hamburger patties. I do it myself, if I’m in a hurry, and tell the kids they are pitaburgers.
Recipe: Kofta Kebab
Adapted From: Steven Raichlen Planet Barbecue
Cooking time: 10 minutes
- Extra wide skewers aren’t absolutely necessary, but they do help.
- 1 pound ground lamb (ground lamb shoulder if you can get it)
- 1 pound ground beef (preferably 80% fat)
- 1 small onion, grated or finely minced
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, if you don’t like heat)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Mix the kofta
Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and knead until completely mixed. Divide the mix into eight egg-shaped portions.
2. Preheat the grill
Prepare the grill for cooking with direct medium heat, then clean with a grill brush. For my Weber summit, I preheat the grill with all burners on high for 15 minutes, then turn the burners down to medium and brush the grate clean.
3. Mold the kofta on the kebabs
While the grill is pre-heating, make the kebabs. Grab a skewer, and hold it with the wide side facing up. Take one of the portions of kofta and wrap it around the bottom of a skewer. Squeezing from the bottom, work the kofta up the skewer until it is an even cylinder, about 1 1/2 inches thick. Then, using your fingers like scissors, dimple the cylinder about every inch or so. (This adds nooks and crannies to the kebab.) Repeat until all the kebabs are formed.
4. Cook the kebabs
Put the kebabs on the grill over the direct medium heat and cook until firm and browned on the bottom, about five minutes. Flip the kebabs and cook the other side until browned, about five more minutes. Remove from the grill – be careful, the skewers are hot. Let rest for ten minutes, then serve.
- I love to serve this with a yogurt dipping sauce (tzatziki) and pita bread. hummus and baba ghanoush are also good sauces to serve with kofta kebabs.
- Why 80% fat ground beef, and lamb shoulder? Kebabs are like burgers – they need fat to remain juicy. If you cook with lean meat, the kebabs will come out a little dry and crumbly. (Crumbly is a word, right?)
- Don’t like lamb, or having a hard time finding it? Go with all beef kebabs. Or, use meatloaf mix – 2/3rds beef and 1/3 pork. I know, not very Middle Eastern, but it still tastes delicious.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Steven Raichlen Planet Barbecue
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