If you've spent any time in Turkey, you surely have eaten köfte. Most of the time you get it grilled (izgara köfte) and if you're really lucky, the köfte is moist and flavorful. But sometimes ... well, let's be honest here: Most izgara köfte at your run of the mill lokanta is dry and and flavorless, resembling more a frozen meat patty that was just run through the George Foreman grill. Yech.
Which is why when I saw this recipe for Izmir Köftesi, which requires the köfte be fried slightly, then baked in a tomato sauce, I knew we had to try it. And am I ever glad we did. Since making it the first night, Jeff and I have eaten this dish another handful of times, and we are planning to make it tomorrow night for dinner guests. (Hi, Mike and Den!)
The recipe makes a HUGE pan of kofte, so it's more than enough for 2 people and plenty for 4. Plus, you can freeze leftovers and reheat them on the stove later and the köfte tastes just as good as when it came out of the oven.
On a side note, I have never seen this dish offered in any local restaurants, so I don't know why it is called Izmir Köftesi. Maybe it's a dish made more frequently in the home?
(Adapted from The Sultan's Kitchen, page 77)
1 kilo lean ground beef or lamb
1 small onion, grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 large tomatoes, diced
2 cups water or lamb/beef stock
2 medium green peppers, seeded and cut diagonally into slices
Heat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make the sauce first. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the tomatoes and water or stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, while you make the köfte so that the tomatoes boil down.
Combine the ground lamb or beef, onion, garlic, eggs, paprika, cumin and parsley in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. With moistened hands, mix the ingredients for about 2 minutes. Keep a bowl of warm water nearby to wet your hands while working. Shape the meat mixture into 20-25 oval balls.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat, add the köfte and lightly brown the meat all over (about 5 minutes). Place the köfte in an ovenproof dish and set them aside.
Pour the tomato sauce over the köfte. Arrange the green peppers on top. Cover the dish and bake for 40 minutes. To check for doneness, cut one köfte open; it should be brown, not pink.
Serve with fried potatoes or rice and salad.