Delicious lamb kebabs, bursting with authentic and enticing Middle Eastern spices and flavours. This Gluten-free and Paleo recipe does not use breadcrumbs.
Kofta is a grilled meatball that is a feature of Middle Eastern cooking, but is also found in Greece and India. They are usually made with ground lamb or beef, but fish and vegetable varieties also exist, particularly in India. Koftas can be cooked and served on skewers, or rolled into cigar shapes or balls.
Ground lamb has a high fat content, which will render out during cooking and pool at the bottom of the grill pan. If too much fat is lost, the finished kofta will become dry and crumbly, which will impact on the flavour and texture. It also poses problems during cooking, as the kofta may fall off the skewer, and the excess fat at the bottom of the grill pan may catch fire (so-called ‘fat flare’). You can prevent this by working the raw mixture for a few minutes, using your hands to knead the mixture. This creates an emulsion by suspending the fat particles in the meat proteins. When the fat particles are surrounded by protein they will hold together, and the fat will remain inside the kofta.
Tips & Tricks
- Chop ingredients very finely – coarse ingredients result in crumbly koftas that fall apart
- Mix by hand – food processors are too aggressive and ruin the texture of ground meat
- Work the raw mixture – this develops the meat proteins so that the koftas hold together better and retain the fat
- Use metal skewers – these will not burn. If using wooden skewers, pre-soak for 20 minutes in warm water and wrap the exposed ends in tin foil.
- After forming koftas, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes – this firms up the texture
- Leave to rest – this gives the muscle fibres time to relax and reabsorb the meat juices that get driven out during cooking. Otherwise the meat juices will run out and be lost when the meat is cut, resulting in tough, dry meat
- 1/2 onion (65g), peeled and very finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil (I used olive oil)
- 900g minced lamb
- 1/2 preserved lemon (replace with juice and finely grated zest of 1/2 organic lemon if you cannot find)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
- 2 teaspoons Ras El Hanout spice mix (replace with 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg if you cannot find)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sumac
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Sautee the onion and garlic. Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for about 4 minutes, until translucent but not brown. Add the garlic and fry for another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.
- Puree the lemon. Scrape away and discard the pulp from the preserved lemon, so you’re left with just the rind. Rinse to remove any excess salt. Transfer to the small bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the egg and blitz until smooth. (If you do not have a food processor, then finely chop the lemon).
- Combine the ingredients. Tip the preserved lemon mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the onion and garlic, and then combine all the remaining kofta ingredients, except for the mince (ras el hanout, cumin, sumac, salt, pepper and parsley leaves). Mix well using a wooden spoon. Use your hands to crumble in the mince. Still using your hands, break up the meat and work the seasoning into the mince. Keep kneading the mixture for a few minutes, until it holds together well.
- Shape the koftas. Divide the kofta mixture into eight equal balls. Use your hands to roll each ball into a cigar shape on the board. If they are too crumbly, then work the mixture some more. Place the koftas on a tray, then transfer to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to firm up.
- Cook the koftas. Pre-heat your oven grill. Once hot, grill the koftas for about 10 minutes, until browned. Turn only once, halfway through cooking. The lamb will release fat, so turn on an extractor fan or open a window to avoid setting off any smoke alarms. If there is excess fat at the bottom of the grill pan, tilt and drain when you turn the koftas to prevent fat flare. Alternatively, fry in a griddle pan over a medium-high heat. Do not turn a kofta during the first minute of frying, as the cooking side will not have sealed and so will stick to the pan.
- When done, remove from the grill and leave to rest for 5 minutes, covered by a double layer of tin foil.
- Transfer to a plate and serve hot.