Koftas are ground meat–beef, pork, lamb, chicken or can even be vegetarian with lots of spices formed into either balls, patties or cylinders. They are generally served with a dipping sauce. In this recipe I tried to go with traditional Lebanese spices, but country to country the spice flavors may change. It is believed that Koftas first originated in Arabia, way back when!
In India Malai Kofta Paneer Dumplings are flavored with lots of curry. The word Malai means ‘cream’ in Hindu and Koftas are fried balls dunked in a very creamy sauce.
In Northern Africa, especially Tunisia, they are usually made with ground beef or lamb. You will find them much spicier with lots of pepper, more garlic, cinnamon, allspice, saffron, lots of fresh mint and other rich and exotic spices. These Koftas are often served with a Tunisian Carrot salad.
On to my humble Lebanese Koftas!
And here they are on the grill next to a big heap of homemade pita pockets and shrimp kabobs. I am not an expert on Lebanese cuisine by any means, but did lots of research and tried to put together many different Lebanese spices to please many different palates as this was part of the main course of our Easter feast. I also like to challenge myself by making lots of new things for the first time for a dinner party. I have made Koftas before, but not this particular recipe.
Here are the ladies of the Rabbitt’s 2023 Easter–Bonnie, Francine, and Dorita. I am so fortunate to have such wonderful lady friends!
The Lemony Yogurt sauce can be made a couple days in advance, which also helps the flavors meld, and helps you by not making everything at the last minute!
I used 2 lbs. of very good quality lamb from Open Nature. Although I like things fairly spicy I used only 1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper. Next time I will increase to 1/2 tsp. as this much lamb and all the other spices could easily handle it. One of the keys to making Koftas is to ensure that your meat mixture is quite sticky. That helps hold them together on a very well-oiled grill; either wood, charcoal, or gas. If the mixture feels too stiff, add a bit more yogurt. And if it feels too runny, add a few more Panko bread crumbs. I had intended on using a wood-fire, but things got hectic putting the meal together after company arrived, and I went with gas. Also if using wooden skewers, soak them a few days before threading the meat on the sticks. I did this, but they still got a little burned. It just added to the smoky flavor!
Koftas also work well for a gathering as you can make them the morning of your dinner, or even night before. I believe by sitting, all formed, in the fridge for a few hours makes them taste even better.
I hope you enjoy these as much as we all did!
Lebanese Lamb Koftas with Lemony Yogurt Dressing
A wonderful blend of aromatics make these meat treats an exotic appetizer or main course, served with fresh homemade pitas, couscous, and lentil salad.
For the Koftas
- 2 lbs. Lamb mince (ground lamb)
- 1/2 Onion, grated. Use white or yellow onion Grating gives the onion a more subtle flavor and it disappears into the meat as you cook. No little chunks of onion. Plus it helps extract the onion juices.
- 1/2 cup Breadcrumbs Preferably Panko.
- 2 cloves Garlic Grated for the same reason as the onions.
- 2 Tbsp. Greek style yogurt This gives that extra moisture to hold the Koftas together as they cook.
- 1 Egg, slightly beaten
For the Kofta Spices
- 3 tsp. Cumin, ground
- 1 tsp. Coriander, ground
- 1 tsp. Spanish Paprika
- 1 tsp. Smoked Paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon, ground
- 1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper More if you want a bit more spice.
- 1/2 tsp. Black Pepper, finely ground
- 2 tsp. Salt
Lemony Yogurt Sauce
- 2 cup Greek style yogurt
- 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil, Extra Virgin
- 1 clove Garlic I also grated this into the sauce.
- 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
- Zest from 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 tsp. Black Pepper, finely ground
- Salt, to taste
For the Koftas
Although these little bites have many different ingredients, they are also very easy to put together.
First mix all the dry spices together in a small bowl.
Next, add the 2 lbs. of ground lamb to a large bowl. Add slightly beaten egg, 2 Tbsp. yogurt and very gently, but thoroughly mix with your hands. Like any meatball, you do not want to overmix as the meat can become tough.
Next, place your zester over the bowl and grate the onion and garlic. This is much easier than it sounds.
Mix in the spices, and again, using your hands mix the spices thoroughly throughout the meat mixture.
Form the meat into cylindrical, football shapes and place on a platter. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The morning of your dinner, place a skewer through the center (long-wise) of each Kofta. Place the skewers on a platter and keep in the fridge, uncovered, until ready to grill.
Grill over either charcoal, wood or gas until they have a nice crisp, but are still medium rare inside-about 10 minutes altogether rotating as they cook to get all sides nicely browned.
Serve with the Lemony Yogurt Sauce at room temperature.
These are also excellent next day (providing you have leftovers), cut in half with a big dollop of the yogurt sauce on a pita pocket.
Don't forget to soak your wooden skewers. Even though I soaked them for 3 days, some of them still burned, but remained intact enough to keep the Koftas turning so cooked evenly throughout. I used a strong pair of tongs to do the turning.
This sounds like a lot of work, but because you do it over a few days, it really is not. Plus, they are well worth it. Very special taste treat that has, rich and exotic flavor.
To see our entire Easter 2023 dinner, go to the FUN category and there you will see it. I will blog more of these recipes soon! For those of you who know me, Easter is my favorite holiday, and I am already planning next years event!
Until, next time…sending love from my kitchen to yours!