In the recipe in "Jerusalem", Ottolenghi uses a mixture of lamb and beef for his kofta, but I used only lamb. I did however use flavourings very much like those that Ottolenghi recommends: onions, garlic, chilli, pine-nuts, parsley, ground cinnamon, ground allspice, ground nutmeg, black pepper and salt. I was pleased to be able to use parsley from my own garden. Furthermore, this was the flat-leaf variety, so very authentic.
The method for making the kotfa (should that be "Koftas", or "Kofte" or even "Kofti"? I don't know...) is easy enough: peel and chop an onion; peel and crush two cloves of garlic; toast and chop about 30g of pine-nuts; chop and de-seed a chilli; put all these in a large bowl along with the spices and seasonings.
Then add the minced meat and the chopped parsley:
Mix thoroughly, and form into elongated balls like this: Ottolenghi describes them as "torpedo-shaped", but mine were more egg-shaped!
Cover the kofta with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least an hour to firm them up. While this is happening, make your Tahini Sauce. This is how: put about 100g of tahini paste (from a jar) into a bowl; add 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 Tbsp vegetable oil and 100ml water. Whisk it until it has a creamy consistency, a bit like a very stiff batter. Add more water if it is too thick. This is the result:
About half an hour before eating time, fry the kofta in a frying-pan in some very hot oil, until they are brown all over.
Then put them into a baking-dish and cook them in the oven at about 180C for another ten minutes. I covered mine with foil to stop them drying out, but I'm not sure whether that was strictly necessary. A couple of minutes before they are due to be ready, pour the tahini sauce into the baking-dish, around the kofta, and sprinkle around a few more pine-nuts.
When they are done the kofta will look something like this:
So that is the meat dish; now for the vegetables.
I am currently very much "on" dishes made with mixtures of several different types of grain / pulse, so I decided to make my carb dish a combination of rice, chickpeas and lentils. I used a small tin of chickpeas, about a couple of tablespoons of dried Puy lentils which I pre-cooked until "al dente", and 100g (dry weight) Basmati rice. For flavourings I used spices similar to those in the kofta - cinnamon and allspice - but I used ground cumin instead of nutmeg this time. I also soaked about 50g raisins in some hot water to plump them up, discarding the water when they were ready.
An essential feature of Mejadra is the fried onions, so I did these in advance to avoid last-minute panics. The method is to slice the onions finely, toss them in plain flour and cook them briefly in very hot oil (approx 3 - 5 minutes). They should come out crispy, not soft. You mustn't worry about them turning very dark brown. Just don't let them burn! Cook them in batches unless you have a very large frying-pan. When they are cooked, drain them on kitchen paper.
We use an electric rice-cooker for cooking rice, but you can use whatever method you like. Just aim off to have the rice ready in time to co-ordinate with the kofta. As soon as the Basmati rice was cooked I decanted it into a frying pan containing a little hot vegetable oil, added the other ingredients - including the fried onions - and stir-fried them for about 5 minutes to ensure that everything was hot. This is especially important if you cook the lentils, rice and chickpeas in advance and let them cool. This is what the dish looked like when finished:
In addition to the dish just described, I served my meal with some plain green lettuce and some quartered tomatoes, which added a nice splash of colour to what would otherwise have been quite a drab meal.
Here are the two main dishes again. First the lamb kofta:-
|Lamb kofta with tahini sauce|
Now obviously this meal is not something you just knock up in 15 minutes like Jamie Oliver might claim to do, but then that was not a problem for me. I had most of the day available and I just love cooking these days, so this meal kept me out of mischief for quite a while!
The verdict? Very tasty indeed, and well worth the effort! I wish I had used a bit more parsley though; the kofta dish would have looked nicer with a generous garnish of it. Oh, and I forgot to toast the pine-nuts...