Type "Kofta recipe" into Google and see how many different cultures claim it as theirs: Greek, Turkish, Indian, Lebanese... the list is larger than that, I assure you. For me, kofta will always mean onion-y meat balls in a cinnamon-spiced tomato sauce topped with a runny poached egg.
I first had something similar at Bedouin Kitchen in Melbourne, and lately I've been making it at home, based on a recipe from Greg Malouf. I know you're supposed to use ground lamb for kofta - it's just that it's hard to come by decent ground lamb here, and I happen to have an embarrassing quantity of ground beef in the freezer, so ground beef is what I've been using (and honestly, I quite like it).
This is a great savoury, saucy dish for winter. It's exotic enough to be impressive for a dinner party and looks smashing served up in teeny little individual lidded casseroles. The cinnamon makes a divine smell when you lift off the lid, allowing the steam to billow out.
I like to serve this with a gorgeous creamy feta, tzatziki & garlic mashed potato and a tangy fattouche salad and a stack of warm, fresh pitas to sop up all that gorgeous sauce. In the photo above, there was no poached egg, but I do generally serve it with a quivering egg perched on top, ready to ooze creamy yolk all over the top of the sauce.
(adapted from Greg Malouf's Arabesque)
For the meatballs:
- 500 g ground beef, lamb or a combination
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced (I just whiz mine in the food processor)
- 3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 egg
- salt & pepper
- canola oil for frying
for the sauce:
- 2 Tablespoons oil
- 1 large yellow onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 (796 ml) can pureed/crushed tomatoes
- 1 (398 ml) can diced tomatoes
- 2.5 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
- 1/2 cup corriander, chopped
- 6 eggs
Meatballs: Combine all meatball ingredients, other than the oil, in a large bowl and use your (clean) hands to squish all the ingredients together until the meat is sticky and pasty and well combined. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Fry meatballs on medium-high heat until well browned and thoroughly cooked. The better cooked they are the better they will hang together in the sauce. Set aside
Sauce: In a large pot (preferably a dutch oven) over medium high heat, saute onions, garlic and spices several minutes until they begin to colour and soften, stirring often.add remaining ingredients (except herbs and eggs) and let simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook for 5 more minutes. Make six depressions in the top of the sauce with the back of a soup spoon. Break the eggs gently into the depressions, place the lid over the sauce and eggs and cook for a further 5 minutes, until the eggs are set but yolks are still runny. Sprinkle the fresh herbs over ands serve straight from the pot.