Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lunch/Dinner: Kofta

In keeping with the meat rotation, I decided to do another meat-heavy one: kofta. It's super easy, and tasty, and doesn't require much preparation.

It's also a very popular dish throughout Egypt. In most restaurants, you can order the 'mixed grill' option. This means you get about 5 little mezze dishes (appetizers like taboulah, hommus, yogurt salad etc.) and a pile of skewered meat. In the meat pile is often kebab, so hunks of beef or lamb, grilled chicken and kofta, a minced meat stick.

There is also a popular Persian version of this dish called Ko0bideh. My thinking is that when the Persians invaded Egypt back in 525 BC something got lost in translation...Kofta - Koobideh...sounds rather similar to me. Actually, it's not that far off. In fact, the word 'kofta' is derived from the Persian word 'kufta' . In Persian, 'kuftan' means to beat or grind, or simply a meatball. If you order koobideh at an Iranian place, it''s more or less similar to kofta,except the spicing is more heavy on sumac and turmeric, but it's the same idea: minced meat mixed with spices and thrown onto a skewer. When you pair a nicely grilled kofta with some yogurt salad, wow. The two were made to be best friends.

It's also one of the dishes that my father used to try to talk me out of eating when we would go out for dinner in Egypt. His reasoning: "you don't know what meat was ground; it could be anything." I shrugged off that idea until I got older and saw that film/documentary Fast Food Nation. It chronicles the work of illegal Mexican workers at this meat factory. Why do I bring this up? Mainly to say I now have to work hard to not think about what is in my ground meat. So I generally order from places I trust, or when I buy it myself. You know, just a word of caution, t'is all.

Anyways, back to the wonderful world of mixed grill and Kofta. It's also a great dish to do when it's bbq season, like it was last weekend for a few hours. It has since gone back to autumn weather. If you don't have a bbq, or you don't live with bbq enthusiasts, you can do this in the oven as well. You just don't get the charcoal flavour.

Total Cooking Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 8 persons

2 pounds of ground meat (lean or otherwise works fine)
1 onion
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 egg
bamboo/metal skewers

1. If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for at least 20 minutes, so they don't burn in the oven or bbq
2. Chop up parsley

3. Grate onion

4. In a large mixing bowl, add meat, parsley, onions, egg and all spices
5. Using your hands, (or if it grosses you out to handle raw meat, use gloves or find someone else to do this for you), mix up everything until it well mixed and a doughy consistency
6. Grab a small handful of the mix and spread over the skewer so it is evenly distributed - kind of like a sausage on a stick
7. Repeat until all the mixture is done
8. Put on the bbq until it is well-cooked.
9. If using an oven, try to cook the sticks over a rectangular casserole dish, so the sticks and the meat are resting on the edges and not touching the bottom
10. While the cooking is going on, prepare the yogurt salad: khiar be lebaan. The recipe for this is in the Kobaiba entry.

And that's it. It's usually well-received by non middle easterners because it doesn't have any 'weird' ingredient. But with the cinnamon and the yogurt salad, it still stands out from any grilled dish. I would suggest if you ever get a chance to try the Persian version. It's spicing is much different than the Egyptian one, but equally satisfying.


  1. This is the second thing I made from this site and I absolutely loved it! I love experimenting so I added a bit of ground cumin along wtih the cinamon for beef koftas but got stumped about whether to add ground corrainder or not (I didn't add it in). In your experience which spices work well in this receipe?

    1. Hi Anonymous,
      Thank you for the lovely feedback. I'm glad the baba ghanoush also worked out for you. I'm sure the ground cumin in the kofta would be great; as for the ground coriander, I don't think it would enhance too much to be honest. Cumin (like you did would be great) and allspice would be good additions. The onions and cinnamon already give it a strong flavour so you don't want to overwhelm it with too many other spices.

  2. This is awesome! I'm trying it tomorrow! We are having an egyptian-themed party tomorrow. We'll make ful medames, koshary and these koftas! Thank you so much for the recipes!

    1. Hi Julieta, thank you for the kind words and good luck with your party. I hope it all works out!

  3. If making in oven what temperature and how long? Uncovered or covered? What is fat percentage in meat?

  4. If using an oven, just set it at an average temperature, around 350F. Cook them uncovered. The amount of time depends on how much meat you have, but check on them every 10 or 15 minutes. There is no particular fat percentage in the meat; that 's more of a personal preference. I usually get lean mean because I don't like a fatty taste.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.