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lamb koftas with harissa dip

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lamb koftas

Never underestimate the power and potential of minced meat. It’s not by accident that the most popular, vilified and addictive fast food chain offers burgers, rather than, say, stew. Take a slab of chuck steak – not very appealing, tough as an old boot and fatty. Put it through a mincer – magic. On par with an average steak, some will say. Kebabs have their own aficionados, and ones who wouldn’t look twice at the scrap ends of lamb that go into the donner. Meatfloafs and meatballs are invariably remembered as ‘just like grandma used to make’. Sausages – can anyone resist them? True, some won’t touch the over-cerealed English bangers but they’ll look overseas and will be won over by salamis, Toulouse, bratwursts and loukanikos. 

greek lamb kofta

Genius, whoever first came up with a thought of shredding some unsavoury raw meat and putting it back together. Is it the tenderness? Not sure, as salamis, saucisses and kabanos call for a strong set of teeth. Is it the generous handfuls of salt that are usually thrown into the mince? Not alone, as some burgers are only salted when cooked. Is it because it’s cheap? Well – there’s cheap and there’s wagyu burgers. 

Mince can be beef, pork, lamb, chicken and better-off-not-knowing. It is pressed and compacted into burgers and meatballs; rudely encased into gut for sausages, loose and thrown into a pan willy-nilly for patty melts or meticulously shredded by hand into a steak tartare. It can be spicy, hellish hot, comforting, salty – or sweet, lest we forget whence mince pies came from. It makes a sauce, ragu, stuffing, filling or a roast. Mince, quite simply, rules. 

keftedes

So get yourself a pound of mince lamb or even better, put it through an old fashioned porkit machine yourself. Add an egg – or not. Season copiously with herbs – or spices. Salt and pepper, honey and tomato, parmesan and anchovy – anything goes. Mix it, shape it, grill it or barbecue it – there. You don’t really even need my recipe, do you? 

lamb koftas with harissa dip

Servings: 6 koftasTime: 15 minutes plus chilling

INGREDIENTS

  • For the koftas:
  • 500g (over 1 pound) minced lamb
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste or powder
  • 20g (2 tbsp.) grated Parmesan
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder (depending how much heat you like)
  • a small bunch of parsley, very finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • zest grated from 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • For the harissa dip:
  • 1 cup full fat or Greek yoghurt
  • 2 tsp harissa paste
  • a few mint leaves, torn

METHOD

If you are using wooden or bamboo skewers to thread the koftas onto, soak them in cold water. 

Place the minced lamb in a large bowl. 

lamb mince

Pound the garlic and anchovies to a paste in a pestle and mortar with the salt and black pepper. Scrape it to the bowl with the lamb. Add all the other ingredients and mix the meat very well, best with your hands. 

shaping koftas

Divide the mixture in six parts, about 100g each. With wet hands squeeze and shape each portion tightly around a skewer and form a fat sausage. Chill the koftas for at least an hour. 

lamb kofta

To make the harissa dip, fold the harissa paste and the mint leaves into a bowl with yoghurt. 

Cook the koftas on a barbecue or a preheated griddle until nicely charred on both sides; about 2-3 minutes each side. Serve with the dip, salad and pita bread. 

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