I discovered the other day that I live in “Little Istanbul.” Of course, I knew my neighborhood was predominantly Turkish (which I love love love, not sure why. Maybe it’s the language, or the color of the soups they make around the corner, or the old bearded guys with a Mediterranean face. I have a thing for old bearded guys with a Mediterranean face.) But the other day, they threw some sort of neighborhood party with a concert, and there was a sign below the stage reading “Little Istanbul.” Somehow, now that it’s tagged, I feel like the Turkishness of it all is more real. Which compels me to cook Turkish food.
My first thought was: “köfte!” (I actually said “kefta”, but I was talking with a Turkish friend who corrected me, so I’m going to try to pretend that I know the least bit about the culture.) I’ve always loved köfte, to me they’re like fancier meatballs. And god knows how close to my heart meatballs are. I yet have to show it to you here, but all in due time my friends. So, why fancy? I think it’s the oval shape. It’s like it’s meatballs that decided to stand out from the crowd and say “hey, I want to be oval, so f*** you round meatballs.” I totally just made a köfte speak, because I’m sure they have a soul.
These didn’t end up looking quite like I expected, mostly because I (still!) don’t have an electric mixer, so the texture wasn’t the typically smooth texture of köfte. But the taste, oh the taste. All of the Mediterranean spices and herbs, and then some. All of the trips South I ever took. Awesomeness shaped into an oval.
PS. I served them with a bulgur recipe which I will post tomorrow…
Köfte (Turkish meatballs)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25-30 minutes
Yields about 10 meatballs
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 2 slices white bread, torn into small pieces
- 1 egg
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1/4 fresh mint, chopped
- 1/4 tsp cinammon
- 1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tbsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 375°C. Line a baking sheet with tin foil.
2. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and knead with your hands until well combined (or use a food processor.)
3. Shape tightly packed meatballs into ovals. Make sure that there is no hollow spot in the meatballs. Place on the baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, flipping the meatballs after about 15 minutes. Check after 20 minutes: if they’re brown all over, they are ready.
- With a food processor, the consistency of the meatballs will be smoother.
- Substitute ground lamb, if desired.
- Substitute 1/3 cup breadcrumbs for the sliced bread.
- Make them a day ahead, bake for 15 minutes, let cool before refrigerating, then bake in a preheated oven for another 10-15 minutes right before serving.