Kafta (also spelled Kofta or Kufta) is an ethnic dish made from any of a variety of ground meats. Primarily, lamb, pork or beef are used. I’ll show you how to make it, as well as a delicious tahini yogurt dipping sauce.
I am fortunate to live in an area where fresh, local food is plentiful. I can drive within 10 miles in any direction and buy a myriad of produce, dairy, meat or eggs directly from the farmer. I can’t even describe the feeling I get from buying food directly from the farmer that grew or raised it. It’s awesome. Our local restaurants take full advantage of the cornucopia of offerings available. One thing I did notice when I moved to the area a few years was the scarcity of variety of ethnic food. When I lived in the city, I was able to grab take-out from any culture imaginable. I definitely missed the spontaneity of that.
The offerings here have expanded over the years, but with four kiddos, dining out regularly is just not feasible. In the meantime, if I want ethnic food, I have to make it myself. The food I miss the most is hands down middle-eastern/Mediterranean inspired food.
Remember my BFF Chris? The one who inspired the Fear Not Bread Series? The gorgeous one with mad kitchen skills?
Hi, Chris! (She’s totally going to kill me for this…)
Chris made the most amazing Kafta once. She served it with a tahini yogurt sauce. I don’t think my life has ever been the same. She made it in her typical fashion: “Oh, this?! This is just so easy!” She gleaned the recipe from her Lebanese grandmother–for as much as you can get a recipe from a grandmother that measures everything with her hands, and adds stuff “until it looks right.” (I had a grandma like that, too.) And the best part? It really is super easy to prepare.
Hubby calls Kafta “mini salisbury steaks,” which is just so, so wrong. My boys call is “mini meatloaf,” which is a bit closer. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious! Kafta is great on it’s own, but is ridiculously good with a tahini yogurt sauce, so I’ll include the recipe for that, as well.
But first, the ingredients you’ll need to make Kafta:
2 slices of sandwich bread
¼ C. milk (approx.)
1 lb. ground beef, turkey OR lamb
1 lb. ground pork
1/8 C. grated onion
2 cloves of garlic, peeled & minced
½ C. fresh parsley, chopped
½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
½ tsp. paprika
Pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)
You’ll need 2 pounds of ground meat. I can tell you that I’ve made Kafta with every combination imaginable, and it’s always been good. If I am feeling a bit on the fluffy side, I make it with turkey and lean ground beef. My favorite combo is 1 pound of ground lamb, with 1 pound of ground pork, which is what is pictured. Run a small, peeled onion along a box grater, until you get about 1/8 of a cup. I used a purple onion, because that is what was in my CSA basket this week, but any ol’ onion will do.
Dump all of the seasonings, the parsley, cumin, cayenne, and cumin, the grated onion, minced garlic, and an egg over the ground meat. Then, I usually add a teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Just for grins. Using your hands, squeeze and knead to mix until everything is fully combined.
Put the sandwich bread into a small bowl, and pour enough milk over top to saturate it–about 1/4 cup. Allow the milk to soak into the bread for a few minutes, then gently squeeze out most of the milk. Break up the soggy bread over the meat mixture, and knead it to incorporate it with the meat.
Grab a handful of the meat mixture, about 1/2 cup, and slap it back and forth between your hands, until you form an oval shaped meatball.
Place the oval on a rimmed baking sheet, and slightly flatten with your hand. Continue until you have about 12 meat-ovals. I line all of my pans with something. It’s just a habit of mine. It also helps with clean up. Lord knows I spend enough time cleaning up messes each day, so if I can save a few minutes, you better believe that I’m going to do it. With meat, I line the baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour so that everything gets all happy and stuff.
While you are waiting for the Kafta to chill out a bit, make the tahini yogurt sauce. This is another meal where it is all about the sauce! You’ll need:
1 C. plain yogurt
6 tsp. sesame tahini (sesame seed paste)
¼ C. fresh lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Measure 1 cup of plain yogurt into a small bowl. Add the tahini, fresh lemon juice, garlic and cumin. Stir well to combine. Taste the sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste. I like it on the salty side, so I usually add about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.
Cover the sauce with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for a bit. This can be made up to a day ahead of time, if you are the organized type. It just gets better with age.
By now, the Kafta should be about ready to cook. I like to grill it over a medium-high heat, but broiling works just as well. Grill or broil Kafta for about 8 minutes, or until desired doneness. I like mine a bit crispy on the outside, and slightly pink inside.
Serve the Kafta with fresh pita, veggies, and lots of tahini yogurt sauce. I like to slice the Kafta in half, and stuff it in a pita pocket with tomatoes, cucumber, and the sauce. Adding some spinach wouldn’t be amiss, either. Hubby likes his spread out on a plate like shown, then he takes each element on the plate and dredges it through the sauce.
God, I love that man.
The tahini yogurt sauce is also lovely served as the centerpiece of a veggie tray or alongside pita chips or bread sticks.
- 2 slices of sandwich bread
- ¼ C. milk (approx.)
- 1 lb. ground beef, turkey OR lamb
- 1 lb. ground pork
- ⅛ C. grated onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled & minced
- 1 egg
- ½ C. fresh parsley, chopped
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
- ½ tsp. paprika
- Pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)
- For the Tahini Yogurt Sauce
- 1 C. plain yogurt
- 6 tsp. sesame tahini
- ¼ C. fresh lemon juice
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: add a little chopped fresh dill or parsley.
- In a large bowl, combine ground meats, onion, garlic, egg, parsley, cumin, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper.
- In a small bowl, briefly soak bread in milk until mushy.
- Squeeze out most of the milk.
- Break up the mushy bread over the meat and other ingredients, in the large bowl. Using your hands, squeeze and knead everything into the ground meat, until well incorporated.
- Take a handful of the meat mixture (about ½ C. worth) and form into a large, oblong shaped meatball. Slightly flatten, and lay out on a rimmed baking sheet. (They will look like mini-meatloaves.) Repeat with remaining mixture. (I get about 12 in total.)
- Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Broil or grill for about 8 minutes, or to desired degree of doneness, turning halfway through cooking time.
- Serve with Tahini Yogurt Sauce, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and pita bread.
- To make the Tahini Yogurt Sauce
- In a medium sized bowl, mix all ingredients until combined.
- Chill for several hours before serving. Can be made 1 day ahead.
- Serve with Kafta, pita bread, sliced vegetables, or breadsticks.