Köfte (sometimes pronounced Köfta) is to the Turkish (and the wider middle-east and central asia) what kabab is to the Indians. The origin of the word köfta comes from Classical Persian kōfta that comes from the verb kōftan, which means “to beat” or “to grind” – hence “grinding the meat of the meatball.” From Greece, throughout the middle-east and up to the Central Asia, Köftes are cooked everywhere and each time in a different way with a local twist.
To be honest, the Turkish Köfta has a lot of similarities with the Indian kababs in terms of varieties and ingredients. For example, they even have a “sis köfte” – a Turkish version of the Indian “ seekh kababs .” Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that they taste the same. It’s a bit like many of the Indian curries that have regional versions due to the availability of spices and ingredients.
These meatballs are often made from lamb mince, but some regions do prepare them with a mix of lamb & beef mince. They’re traditionally served with a flatbread (called Dürum) with raw onions and plain yogurt. The first time I tried them was at the home of a Turkish friend. We went to his place after college and his mother had made some traditional Köfte with bulgur. It didn’t take me long to be convinced about these succulent meatballs. Over the years, I have discovered many versions but the one I prefer is rather simple and served with a good Mediterranean salad and a tangy yogurt- based sauce. If you really want to, you can even serve them with some bulgur or some rice. They’re just delicious! So even if you think that you know how to make köfte, we strongly advise you to try this version at home.
For the spice mix (combine all in a bowl)
. 1 tbsp ground jeera (cumin)
. 1 1⁄2 tsp of dried mint
. 1 1⁄2 tsp dried oregano
. 1 tsp sweet paprika
. 1 tsp hot paprika
. 1 tsp crushed black peppercorns
For the pomegranate yogurt sauce (combine all together)
. 1⁄2 cup plain yogurt
. 2 tbsp chopped mint (fresh leaves)
. 1⁄2 tsp fresh lemon juice
. 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (anardana) and more for serving
For the köftes
. 500 gm lamb mince
. 1 medium tomato, seeded and finely diced
. 1/4 cup finely grated red onion
. 1 medium clove of garlic (minced)
. 3⁄4 tsp salt
. 1 tsp pomegranate molasses
. 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds (for garnishing)
. 2 tbsp freshly chopped mint leaves (for garnishing)
1. In a large bowl, put the lamb, tomato, onion, pomegranate molasses, garlic and salt. Add 1 tbsp of the spice mix and use your hands to mix until all ingredients are combined and the meat becomes a bit sticky.
2. Wet your hands and divide the meat in eight portions. You can choose to simply shape them as meatballs or press them around the skewers into a sausage shape. I usually shape them as normal flattened meat balls.
3. Transfer each one in an oiled dish or plate and cover with cling film. Please refrigerate at least two hours before cooking.
4. Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill. If you choose the latter, please oil the grill grate beforehand. Grill the köftes until cooked.
5. Garnish with the pomegranate seeds and mint. Drizzle more pomegranate molasses over the yoghurt sauce & serve the Turkish meatballs.