Diary of a Foodie

Lamb Kofte with Garlic Yogurt Sauce

Diary of a Foodie: Season Three: Turkey: Iftar in Istanbul

Serves4 to 6
  • Active Time:45 min
  • Start to Finish:1 hr
January 2009
Kofte, cigar-shaped lamb meatballs, are popular throughout Turkey. This version calls for mildly hot and intensely flavorful Maras and Urfa dried red pepper flakes; red-black Urfa is earthy and slightly smoky, while deep red Maras has a bright berry taste. Together they make these kofte impossible to resist. (If you can’t find them, you can use a good brand of paprika; they won’t taste quite the same but will still be delicious.) Baharat, the classic Turkish spice blend that typically includes cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, along with red and black pepper, adds yet another layer of flavor.

Be sure to knead the bread and meat together thoroughly before you form the
kofte; the kneading distributes the fat evenly and creates a lovely smooth texture. This recipe is from Valerie and Ihsan Gurdal, the owners of the renowned specialty foods shop Formaggio Kitchen, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The dried peppers and
baharat are available from Formaggio and in Middle Eastern markets.

Watch a clip of this Diary of a Foodie episode and view its accompanying recipes. Plus, explore all episodes and more recipes from the show.

For sauce

  • 1 cup plain yogurt, preferably whole-milk
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Salt

For kofte

  • 2 slices firm white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 small red onion, minced or grated
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon baharat spice mix
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Maras pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Urfa pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Optional accompaniment:

    16 soft lettuce leaves for wrapping
  • Special equipment:

    sixteen 10-inch-long wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

Make the sauce:

  • Stir yogurt together with garlic and salt to taste in a small bowl.

Make the kofte:

  • Cover bread with water in a small bowl and let soak for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal or gas grill: If using a charcoal grill, open vents in bottom of grill, then light charcoal. Fire is hot when you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for just 1 to 2 seconds. If using a gas grill, preheat on high, covered, for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to moderately high.
  • Squeeze bread to remove as much moisture as possible. Put in a large bowl, add remaining ingredients, and mix with your hands until thoroughly blended. Divide lamb mixture into 16 portions and form each into a ball. Roll each ball into a 7- to 8-inch-long cigar, rolling it first between your hands and then on a work surface (be sure the kofte are uniformly thin for even cooking.) Slide a skewer lengthwise through center of each kofte.
  • Oil grill rack and grill kofte, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, loosely covered with foil, and serve warm with yogurt sauce, wrapping them in lettuce leaves, if using.
Cooks' note: The kofte can also be broiled on an oiled baking sheet 5 inches from the heat, turning once, for 4 to 6 minutes.
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