Tuesday, April 27, 2010
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)
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
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.