Samin Nosrat’s recipe for kufte kebab | Food

kufte, kofte, kefta – call it what you like. It’s essentially a torpedo-shaped meatball, and each country in the Near and Middle East, as well as the Indian subcontinent, has its own variation. I cook this dish when friends ask for a Persian meal, but I can’t bear the thought of all the tinkering and chopping for one of our other endlessly complicated dishes.

Makes about 24 kebabs (serves 4-6)
saffron 1 large pinch
onion 1 large coarsely grated
minced lamb 675g (preferably shoulder meat)
garlic 3 cloves, finely grated or crushed with a pinch of salt
ground turmeric 1½ teaspoon
parsley, mint and/or coriander 6 tbsp, very finely chopped – herbs in any combination
freshly ground black pepper

Grind the large pinch of saffron to a powder with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Add 2 tablespoons of boiling water and let it steep for 5 minutes. Push the onion through a sieve, squeeze out as much liquid as possible and discard.

Place the saffron tea, onion, lamb, garlic, turmeric, spices and a pinch of black pepper in a large bowl. Add 3 generous pinches of salt and knead the mixture with your hands. Your hands are valuable tools here; your body heat will melt the fat a bit, making the mixture stick together better and less crumbly kebabs. Boil a small piece of the mixture in a frying pan and taste for salt and other seasonings. Adjust if necessary and cook a second piece if necessary and taste again.

Once the mixture is seasoned to your taste, wet your hands and begin to form oblong, three-sided meatballs by gently curling your fingers around 2 tablespoons of the mixture. Place the small torpedoes on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

To cook on a barbecue grill the kebabs over hot coals until deliciously charred on the outside and just cooked through, about 6 to 8 minutes. Turn them often as they begin to brown so that they have an even crust. When done, the kebabs should feel firm, but give slightly in the center when squeezed. If you’re not sure they’re ready, cut one open and check – if there’s a dime-sized pink diameter surrounded by a brown ring, it’s done.

To cook indoors, place a cast iron skillet over high heat, add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, turning once on each side.

Serve immediately or at room temperature, with rice and herb yogurt or a carrot salad and charmoula.

To make Moroccan kofta, omit the saffron and replace the mixed spices with 10 g of finely chopped coriander. Reduce the turmeric to teaspoon. Add 1 teaspoon ground cumin, ¾ teaspoon hot pepper flakes, ½ teaspoon finely grated ginger and a small pinch of ground cinnamon. Continue as above.

For Turkish köfte, use beef if desired. Omit the turmeric, saffron and spices and season with 1 tablespoon Turkish Aleppo pepper (or 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes), ¼ cup finely chopped parsley and 8 finely chopped mint leaves. Continue as above.

From Salt, fat, acid, heat by Samin Nosrat (Canongate, £35)