I don't cook enough meatballs. Sure, about once a year I'm struck with a nostalgic craving for the spaghetti and tomato sauce kind (one of the first proper things I learned to cook, which impressed my now-fiance to stick around as long as she has).
I make them with bread soaked in milk and lots of garlic, and think fondly about the opening scene of Big Night ("Sometimes the spaghetti likes to be alone.") But kebab-style meatballs, ubiquitous in Middle Eastern cuisine under the general moniker "kofta," are mostly unexplored territory for me. From Albania to Azerbaijan, there are tempting recipes, all of which require little more than mixing fragrant spices into the meat and whipping up a little sauce.
This recipe comes from the Australian food magazine Gourmet Traveler, as part of a larger Turkish mezze-style spread. I nabbed the köfte and haydari recipes, which is a sauce similar to Greek tzatziki but with the intriguing addition of walnuts. The resulting meatballs—a mix of beef and lamb redolent of cumin, coriander, and garlic—were quick and wonderful.
And I may never go back to simple tzatziki again. Though I was unable to find thick sheep's milk yogurt, the sauce was wonderful nonetheless.
- Yield:4 to 6
- For the köfte
- 3/4 pound each ground beef and lamb
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup finely chopped mint
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- For the haydari
- 1/3 cup finely chopped dill
- 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
In a medium bowl, mix the haydari ingredients together. Allow to sit while the flavors mingle.
Mix the köfte ingredients together and shape the meat into small balls. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, preferably non-stick, over medium heat. Add the meatballs and cook, uncrowded, until well-browned and cooked through. A non-stick skillet will help them to retain their shape as you turn them.
Serve the meatballs with the haydari on the side, with pita or other flatbread.