Kefta is a Middle Eastern term for a ground meat mixture that's usually seasoned with all kinds of other ingredients. While I would never dream of overseasoning a burger with anything beyond salt and pepper, something turns off in my brain when I'm dealing with kefta. Suddenly I'm adding as many ingredients as I possibly can—herbs, spices, it doesn't matter. The more the merrier.
So what's so strange about this recipe adapted from Charlotte Puckette's The Ethnic Paris Cookbook is how stripped down it is. Besides salt and pepper, there are only three ingredients.
Luckily, the three ingredients are all flavorful and generously used. I mean, 17 dates and two sprigs of sage are added to just one pound of lamb, making for a funky and slightly sweet mixture.
It's easy enough to form the paste onto skewers, but cooking them requires some patience. You could, of course, grill them over a live fire (make sure to soak the wooden skewers first, or to use metal skewers instead), but I cooked them on a cast-iron grill pan. Either way, you need to be on call. Due to all the sugar in the dates, you'll have to keep turning down the heat so they don't burn. In the end, it wasn't a big deal, but you should definitely be careful.
There is something really thrilling about realizing that only three ingredients make something so dramatically flavorful. Some rice wouldn't be out of order; I served mine with warm pita and hummus.
Adapted from The Ethnic Paris Cookbook
- Yield:serves 3 to 4
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:45 minutes
- 2 sprigs fresh sage, stems discarded
- 17 dates
- 1 pound ground lamb
- Salt and pepper
- 4 to 6 pitas
Add the sage leaves and dates to a food processor, and process until the finely chopped. Use a spatula to scrape down any bits that have stuck to the sides. Add the ground lamb, and process until it forms a slightly chunky paste. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide the mixture into 10 balls. Mold each ball onto a skewer until it looks resembles a "flat sausage." (Note: Soak wooden skewers for 30 minutes or use metal skewers if using an outdoor grill.)
Heat a cast-iron grill pan or a grill over medium heat. Add the skewered meat and cook until caramelized and completely cooked, about five minutes a side. Reduce heat to medium-low if the meat starts to burn.
Serve the skewers with pita and hummus.