I have always loved lamb kofta but, surprisingly, I have not made it very often until recently. A trip to Iceland put lamb back on my radar–one of my sons, who does not eat fish, ate lamb almost every night while we were there. When we returned, I started looking for ways to add more lamb to our meal repertoire.
Kofta, also called “Kufteh” or “koofteh” is a Middle Eastern and South Asian comfort food often resembling a meatball or dumpling, although they can be made in various forms. The name “kofta” is derived from the Persian word “kuftan” which means “to beat” or “to grind” or “meatball”. Kofta is basically a patty of well-seasoned, ground lamb–mixed with lots of garlic, parsley, mint, cumin and a touch of cinnamon. I love to make mine on skewers and serve it with a salty cucumber-yogurt sauce on the side. Although traditional kofta is typically made with ground lamb or beef, there is a wonderful vegan version you can make if that’s appealing.
In India, sometimes you will see kofta made with fish, but that is not as common. The versatility of this flavorful dish is remarkable, it can be grilled, fried, steamed, poached, or baked making this a great easy meal that can be prepped ahead. Typically served with a sauce, my favorite is the cucumber-yogurt one I made here, but sometimes a rich spicy sauce makes a lovely addition. Traditional kofta recipes mix in white rice and yellow split peas, but my recipe omits that and focuses on the meaty flavor without the added starch.
Kofta can also be stuffed, including with nuts and berries, but this crosses over more into the dumpling category–and that is not what I was looking for here, especially when I’m whipping up dinner on a busy weekday. This tasty dish can be prepped and cooked in 30 minutes-it does not get much better or faster than this! You can serve this simple dish with just about anything, favorites of mine include a simple chickpea salad, fresh hummus with some warm pita bread, oven roasted vegetables, or couscous. And for the kids, eating meat on a stick may be appealing enough to get them to try it!
Lamb Kofta With Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
- For the Kofta:
- 10 wooden skewers
- 1 pound grass-fed lean ground lamb
- 1 piece of white or sourdough bread, toasted and crumbled
- 1/4 cup yellow onion, grated
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh mint, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil, divided
- For the Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce:
- one 7-ounce container 2% greek yogurt
- 1 Persian cucumber, unpeeled and grated
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- dash of black pepper
- Step 1 Soak the skewers in water for about 10 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Step 2 For the kofta: Using a medium size bowl add the lamb, toasted bread, onion, garlic, cumin, paprika, salt, cayenne, nutmeg, black pepper, parsley and mint. Using your hands, mix well to incorporate.
- Step 3 Divide the lamb-mixture into 10 equal pieces. Using your hands shape one portion of lamb into a flat oval shape about 4 inches long and 2 inches wide. Place a skewer in the center and use your hands to mold the lamb around the skewer, covering it completely. Gently flatten between the palm of your hands. Place on the prepared baking sheet and set aside.
- Step 4 Repeat the above process with the remaining lamb-mixture until you have made 10 kofta skewers. Set aside.
- Step 5 For the Cucumber-Sauce: In a small mixing bowl add the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside.
- Step 6 Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil. When hot but not smoking, add half of the kofta and sear for about 3 minutes. Using kitchen tongs, flip the kofta and sear for an additional 2 minutes. Place on a serving plate and sear the second batch of kofta.
- Step 7 To serve, arrange the kofta on a serving plate. Serve with cucumber-yogurt sauce on the side.