Keftas, koftas…just another name for deliciously fragrant, mildly spiced lamb meatballs beloved throughout the Levant.
The recipe below was adapted from the one in Sabrina Ghayour’s Persiana cookbook, and it was made by my teenage daughter to celebrate her return to a carnivorous lifestyle (sigh of relief from Mom, who’d just about run out of enthusiasm for cooking two different menus for each meal).
So there you have it: keftas are so easy to make, even a child or teenager finding their way in the kitchen can whip some together. Keftas are a fantastic snack with sundowners, so remember this recipe for your holiday entertaining. Make a big batch and keep the mixture in the fridge for up to 3 days before you roll your little keftas. It’s much easier to bake keftas in the oven at 180 C for 15-20 minutes than to fry them in a pan. A lot less messy, too.
Lamb mince for keftas, as I found out years ago, needs to have a fair amount of fat, otherwise it dries out horribly. Sufficient fat will ensure lovely, tender and succulent little meatballs.
If you’re planning a meal with your keftas, add some jewelled couscous, and a nice yoghurt dip like the spiced one I give below, or else just tzatziki bought from the supermarket. Easy does it. It’s summer, isn’t it? You don’t want to be stressing and sweating in the kitchen.
PERSIANA LAMB KEFTAS WITH JEWELLED BURGHUL AND SPICED YOGHURT
Serves 4 – 6 (makes about 48 small meatballs)
1 kg lamb mince
1 medium onion, very finely chopped and cooked until soft and translucent with 1 t (5 ml) crushed garlic
1 heaping teaspoon (7.5 ml) ground cumin
1 heaping teaspoon (7.5 ml) turmeric
1 teaspoon (5 ml) cinnamon
1 tablespoon (15 ml) dried mint
1/2 cup (125 ml) chopped cashew nuts or pine kernels (I didn’t have pine kernels, so I used chopped cashews. Same texture, really)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
1 cup wholewheat couscous
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
1 T (15 ml) olive oil
juice of half a lemon (save the other half for your spiced yoghurt)
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) Nomu chicken stock or 1 T (15 ml) liquid concentrated stock
1 teaspoon (5 ml) sherry vinegar
handful each of fresh mint and fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
handful of dried apricots, snipped into thin slivers with your kitchen scissors
handful of dried cranberries
handful of pistachios, lightly toasted
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup (250 ml) Greek yoghurt
juice of half a lemon (use the other half of the lemon used for the jewelled couscous)
1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) cumin
dried mint to sprinkle over as garnish
sumac to sprinkle over as garnish
- Preheat the oven to 180 C. Lightly spray two baking trays. Mix all the ingredients for the keftas/meatballs together, using your hands to really squish the ingredients together. Keep on kneading and squishing for about 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to resemble a sort of paste. Roll into balls just smaller than hen’s eggs and flatten them a little bit. Arrange on two oven baking trays and bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, until just nicely brown. Remove and serve warm or at room temperature with the jewelled couscous and spiced yoghurt, or with a dip as a party snack.
- Couscous: Put the couscous and salt into a heatproof bowl and pour the olive oil in. Rub the oil through the couscous with your fingertips – this prevents clumping.
- Mix the lemon juice, boiling water and stock together and pour over the couscous. Don’t stir and let stand for 20 minutes before fluffing with a fork. Drizzle over about 1 teaspoon (5 ml) sherry vinegar and fork through.
- Use a fork to mix in the herbs, dried fruit and nuts and season to taste.
- Mix all the ingredients except dried mint and sumac together, which are sprinkled on as garnish, and serve with the keftas and couscous.