Lamb Kofte Kebabs: Cooking with Claudia Roden

Kebabs are ubiquitous in Turkey. These were a huge hit at a potluck we did recently. They are great cooked on the grill outside, indoors on a grill pan, or under a broiler. This is a variation of a recipe from Claudia Roden's, The New Middle Eastern Food.

Total Time:  3-6mins Active Time:  1hr Number Serves:  18 Equipment:  Scale, Spice grinder (or a pantry full of ground spices), A Meat Grinder or Food Processor (or a teenager to put to work mincing a big pile of meat), a refrigerator or winter environs, sharp knife, and a clean fresh water to wash your veggies(lucky US).


3.75# (1700g) Cleaned and cubed Lamb Shoulder or Leg
2 Medium Yellow Onions (200g each)
20g Kırmızı Pul Biber (Turkish, red pepper flakes-we had them, use what you got)
5g Fresh Oregano
5g Fresh Parsley
5g Fresh Ground Cinnamon
5g Fresh Ground All Spice
2g of Grated Nutmeg, fresh is better
38g salt
5g Fresh Ground Black Pepper


1. Get your butcher to de-bone the leg of lamb or shoulder, like I did (or do it yourself and save all that meat you torn up practicing and use that too). Next clean up the meat you have. Check for bone chips, major tendons, large swaths of sinew (don’t remove it all you’ll lose too much and it’s not necessary) glands in the thick fatty tissues ( And I mean cut through the fat and see, it tastes nasty, that is where that gamey taste comes from), etc. and trim as much as you can off.
I bought a 4.13 pound half leg of lamb. It yielded almost exactly 3.75# of cleaned meat.

2. Cut it into about 1” strips of meat (or the size of your grinder). Then dice those into cubes. Note: if you don’t have a grinder and are using a food processor, still cut it into smaller pieces, you’ll thank me.

3. Put those in a metal bowl and place in the refrigerator or even freezer while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

4. Dice the onions. Trust me, it’s easier to dice them first.

5. Weigh out all the dry ingredients and put them in the same dish.

6. Get your grinder set up or your food processor. (Or if you are truly into the physical, just mince all this shit together in small batches on your cutting board. Call me when you are done with that one.) For a meat grinder start with the plate with large holes for the first grind and move it down to the smallest for the next one or two grinds. For a food processor, well, you have one texture cut, pasty, you aim for smooth and not lumpy pasty.

7. The idea is to keep this mixture as cool as possible. So,take your meat out (the lamb) and mix all of the other ingredients really well by hand. You will get your hands and arms dirty so roll up your sleeves. But, don’t over mix or overwork it too much. Your hands will start to melt the fat and well, that leads to some dry sausage.

8. Start grinding (or processing: hand and food processor types). For grinders, I ground mine twice through the same size plate (the medium one). If I did it again, I would go through the small one on the second round. The same size grind yields a firm and nice sink your teeth into kind of texture, but I suspect (and will try next week) that the smaller grind would be a more tender mouth feel. Other guys, I don’t know, I didn’t use that shit, good luck to you.

9. Cool the mixture. I covered mine and dealt with it the next day when it was really cold.

10. Put on skewers, or form into patties and grill or saute. I tried it all ways. I cooked them on the barbecue on skewers, pulled the remainder off the skewers the next day and grilled inn a grill pan, and tested the original mixture on the first day in a saute pan. It all tasted about the same when cooked right.

11. Cook until done on a very to medium hot grill, grill pan, saute pan, under a broiler, whatever. What does cooked right mean? I’m thinking medium. If you need a thermometer ~150F or 65C. If you can feel it, good for you. Otherwise, crack it open on one side and peek, no one will notice, that is what we do sometimes too.


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