My gustatory palette has been cycling between Brazilian, Chinese, and Egyptian cuisines lately, much to BrownBear’s delight, and after a lonnnnnnnng and indecisive stroll through the grocery store last week, and a little enthusiastic suggestion from BrownBear I took a deep breath and attempted this home-cooking favorite from my childhood.
I’ve written some posts (see links at right) before about Egyptian food, or about the roots of inspiration behind my improvisational cooking philosophy. This dish, kefta, or kofta, was one of the signature foods. It is a well-seasoned, mouth-watering ground meat festival, rich in flavor and all in all, not difficult to make.
This was the first time for me to seriously attempt it, and I forewarned BrownBear and my friend SM of this as I prepared their plates.
In lieu of posting pictures of raw meat, I’ll just describe what went into it.
- 1 package of 96% lean organic ground beef (for purposes of avoiding hormone-ridden meats in the USA, which I learned about at the American Society of Nutrition meetings a few weeks ago)
- cumin, ~ 1 tablsepoon
- paprika, ~1/2 tablespoon
- freshly ground black pepper, ~1 tablespoon
- half an onion, chopped
- sea salt, ~ 3 tablespoons
- cloves, ~1/8 teaspoon
- a bunch of fresh parsley, ~ 6-7
- olive oil, ~1 teaspoon
I must confess, although I tried to measure the spices, that was unsuccessful ultimately as I began to just use my nose as the appropriate sensor of whether the right amount of spice was in the mixing bowl. All spice measurements are approximate. Plus, I believe that trained noses are an acquired skill, and I encourage everyone to keep trying and your cooking intuition and acumen will grow!
In a mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients with a spoon or a spatula. Cover bowl with saran wrap and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest. Now, if it is summer time and you would like to hold a little middle-eastern themed cookout, fire up the grill! If you don’t have a grill (like me), you can make baked kofta in the comfort of your home.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
After the meat rests for 30 minutes and you have given the spices and onions sufficient time to soak into the meat, shape the meat. Since I wanted long sandwiches, I shaped them accordingly. You can also make small, flat, round patties that will fit nicely into a pita.
- Brush olive oil on a baking pan and lay the meat on the pan.
- Bake 25-30 minutes for medium finish.
While it is baking, you can make some nice accompaniments.
- Chop Persian cucumbers and a tomato. Olive oil, lemon juice, two little twists of ground pepper. This is a little salad for the side, or to go in the sandwich with the meat.
I confess, I actually made an Asian inspired version of this a few days prior and just used it up with this and no one was the wiser! 😉
That involved rice vinegar, a dab of sesame oil, red pepper flakes, lemon juice.
- Toast the bread. I used whole wheat hot dog buns (talk about fusion of cultures…)
- Hummous (white bean is a yummy variation on the usual chick pea – Readers, have you ever made some at home? It’s easy too. ) and tzatziki sauce.
- For dessert? A little Brazilian inspiration. Butter, sugar, cinnamon and bananas on the stove top. Pair that with mint chip ice cream and a couple of cookies, and mmmmm!
The pictures explain how we ate it. BrownBear even made a little pita chip Kofta bite. Doesn’t it look delightful?
Try it. If you are one of those people who have no idea what Egyptian food is, or have been curious but can’t find a restaurant where you are, you can certainly do it at home. The spices and flavors are usually readily accessible as well. Many middle-eastern cultures make this dish with variations. Some use ground lamb, some use mint, some use pine nuts, some add an egg. Even within one’s own culture, there is no faux-pas in exploration and owning your own tastes: my dad would make it with egg, or with oatmeal to make it extra hearty. But, I prefer this version I’ve shared here with you personally.
Be creative and enjoy. Let me know what you think when you try it out, ok?
until next time, friends –