Day 41 (I think) of this lockdown, and unfortunately, so many of my favorite restaurants are closed. Despite what it may seem like, we do order takeout a good bit, because some days, after a shoot or a series of tests for a recipe, the last thing I want to do is be in the kitchen. There's one Turkish place nearby that does a mean lamb kofta, perfectly charred, fluffy, hot-off-the-grill. It's studded with nuts and vegetables and I'm sure it's a recipe more complex than mine.
I decided to make kofta in my own kitchen this weekend. In case you forgot, I live in a "cozy" Brooklyn apartment, aka, no, we don't have a grill. I cooked my kofta on a screaming hot cast-iron, and they got quite a nice sear. In my first test, I seasoned the lamb kofta with a bunch of spices but then I realized the only ones I really needed were cinnamon, cumin, and black pepper. So I tweaked and tailored and pulled the ingredient list down to the essentials.
Let's make some kofta!
WHY USE GROUND LAMB?
Lamb is traditional in Middle Eastern cooking, and it's extremely flavorful on it's own. Lamb is very fatty, which allows the kofta to stay moist while cooking!
CAN I USE GROUND BEEF, CHICKEN OR TURKEY?
Sure! Just make sure to buy meat with a high-fat ratio so that you don't end up with dry kofta! I recommend 80/20 (meat/fat ratio) if you can find it. If you are using ground chicken, ground dark meat works better than white meat.
CAN I MAKE THE MEAT IN ADVANCE?
Absolutely. You can make your meat mix up to 24 hours ahead. Leave it in the fridge, and remember to take it out 30 minutes before cooking so it's not as cold.
WHY DO YOU TAKE THE MEAT OUT OF THE FRIDGE 30 MINUTES IN ADVANCE?
Whenever you are searing meat, it's best not to put very cold meat on a very hot pan because this causes the meat to tense up very quickly. You'll get a better sear and softer meat if you allow it to come closer to room temperature first.
WHY DO YOU ADD GRATED ONION TO YOUR MEAT?
Grated onion is a great addition to ground meat because it provides both flavor and moisture, while still being fairly mild in the finished product!
WHY DO YOU ADD EGG TO THE KOFTA?
The egg acts as a binder in the kofta, making it easier for the meat to hold together and to shape.
CAN I ADD OTHER SPICES?
Sure! Some other spices that would be nice in this kofta are coriander, cardamom and/or cloves.Print
ground lamb patties spiced with cumin, cinnamon and black pepper
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1 egg
- 1 small yellow onion (grated)
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley + cilantro (approximately a handful of each, without stems)
- 1 lime (zested + juiced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced or grated)
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt (*use 1/2 tsp if sensitive to salt*)
- neutral oil, for cooking
- Combine all of the ingredients listed above. If you are making this mixture in advance, you can let it sit in the fridge for a few hours or even overnight. If you are making it to be eaten right away, just move onto the next step.
- Allow the meat to rest on the counter for 30 minutes (so that it's not so cold) before you begin the cooking process.
- Shape the patties as you wish, using slightly less than 1/4 cup of meat mixture per kofta. I shaped them into oblong disks by making logs and then tapering the edges. You could also make regular patties, just don't make them too thin! You want a fairly thick center to prevent drying out.
- Once you are ready to cook, warm a cast-iron plan on the stove. Turn the heat to high and let the pan get REALLY hot. Once it's very hot, add a tablespoon of neutral oil, then turn the heat down to medium.
- Add the kofta to the pan (they probably won't fit at once) and cook on a medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes per side, depending on how well you like your meat cooked. We went with 5 minutes per side, which resulted in a little bit of pink left in the middle. If you prefer your meat completely well-done, you'll need to cook it for ~7 minutes per side. Since the meat is ground, you can usually tell how cooked it is by pressing it with your finger. If it has a lot of give, it's still raw in the middle.
- After the first 5-7 minutes, flip the kofta. Your pan should be very well lubricated from the lamb fat. If for some reason it's not, add a bit more neutral oil. Cook the kofta on the second side for another few minutes, then remove once it's nice and brown. Place it on a cooling rack or on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any extra grease.
- Serve kofta alongside rice and salad for a complete and delicious meal!
This recipe makes about 8 kofta. 2 kofta are enough for 1 person with salad, rice, and other sides! If you're feeding 4 very hungry people, and/or you want leftovers, make double!
- Category: Entree
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Keywords: lamb, lamb kofta, middle eastern cooking, lebanese food, turkish food
Want to know my favorite sauce to eat with lamb kofta? It's tzatziki! The cool, creamy, yogurt is the perfect addition to this dish.