Friday 29 August 2014

Kofte with bulgur

This is my interpretation of a classic Middle Eastern (Turkish?) dish. I don't claim that it is authentic, but it is certainly nice!

With our weather here having turned very cold (down to 3.7C one night!), our thoughts have turned to Winter-style food; stuff that will warm you up on a chilly evening. In the past we have had a couple of very pleasant holidays in Turkey, and enjoyed the food we had there, and I'm sure this was in the back of my mind when I was deciding what to cook.

My version of kofte (aka meatballs) involves minced Lamb, seasoned with ground cinnamon, allspice, coriander and cumin, along with some dried oregano, some cumin seeds and a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes. To give the meatballs a softer texture and to help them stay together when cooking I added two slices of white bread (crusts removed), softened in milk. Using my hands to ensure that everything was well mixed, I shaped the mixture into balls about the size of an rather flattened golf ball:

I covered them in clingfilm and then put them in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm-up.

Later on, about two hours before dinner-time, I started the rest of the dish. First stage was to soften a couple of sliced onions in some vegetable oil in a large casserole. Then I added about a litre of home-made chicken stock and a pile (about 300g) of home-grown baby carrots:

Adding a little salt and pepper, I covered the casserole and put it into a low oven (about 140C), while I browned the meatballs.

At this stage I wanted the kofte to be browned but not cooked all the way through, so I gave them a minute or so each in really hot oil in a deep pan (I used our ceramic wok).

Notice that I only did a few at a time, to avoid crowding the pan, which would reduce the temperature too much. As they were done, I lifted them out and set them aside on a plate.

When they were all ready, I arranged them in the casserole, on top of the carrots and onions, and returned the whole thing to the oven, where they simmered away for the next hour and a half.

With about half an hour to go I removed the casserole lid to allow the gravy to reduce a bit and thicken. This is a very forgiving dish, and a few minutes either way would not be critical!

Meanwhile I made up some bulgur (cracked wheat). This is incredibly simple to do! I softened another finely-chopped onion in a deep pan until translucent, then added a measured quantity of chicken stock, brought it to the boil and added the bulgur. You have to follow the manufacturer's instructions on quantities, because they are not always the same. Mine had one and three quarters cups of stock to one cup of bulgur (to feed two people). When the stock returns to the boil, cover the pan and let it simmer very gently until the bulgur soaks up the stock (approx. 20 mins).

Finally, fluff it up with a fork. You can add embellishments such as raisins, pistachios or chopped parsley if you like, but I left mine plain. The taste was predominantly of the home-made chicken stock, which was deeply rich and flavoursome.

The final flourish, just before serving, was to add to the kofte dish a generous sprinkling of snipped chives, to give it some colour. Normally I would most likely have added chopped parsley, but I didn't have any parsley, and anyway, as Jane pointed out, the chives nicely complemented the oniony flavour of the broth.

I was very pleased with the level of spicing in the meatballs. This is something you learn to judge for yourself, and I think I got it just right this time. People like different levels of spicing, and it is not really appropriate to dictate to other people how much of each spice (and indeed, which spice) they should add. And anyway, the level of flavour depends on things like the freshness of the spices themselves, so "half a teaspoon" can be a meaningless term.

I served the meal with some salad accompaniments - sliced red radishes, crunchy Cos / Romaine lettuce and home-grown tomatoes covered with torn fresh Mint and sliced Spring Onions:

I don't have a photo of the plated-up dish to offer you. You just have to imagine it: take a portion of bulgur into your bowl; add a few of the kofte; add a few of the carrots; pour over the whole lot a few spoonfuls of the savoury broth; dig in...  Heaven!

This is what we call Comfort Food - unsophisticated, but very warming and tasty!


  1. It certainly looks heavenly! I'd love to try this when the weather turns cooler...still reeling in the 34 degree heat. The combination is wonderful. We have koftas in curry form but not in a casserole so it'll be a change from the usual way of cooking. Even the salad looks lovely!

  2. Sounds really delicious. Our mornings have turned cool here. Strange for August.

  3. That sounds delicious. Though we have had couple of hot days recently that this one will have to wait until later in the year.

  4. i'm so hungry... my mouth is dribbling with lust over this dish... I. Want. It. NOW!!!!!!!!!


Thank you for taking time to leave me a comment! Please note that Comment Moderation is enabled for older posts.