There are those recipes we go back to again and again; you know, the ones that really make our taste buds sing, or that comfort us when nothing else can. Or that we just love to eat over and over again. This is one of those recipes for Doug and I. I’ve been making Lamb Köfte, aka lamb meatballs, ever since this recipe first appeared in the January 2010 issue of Bon Appetit two years ago.
The meatballs are served with fried onions, pita bread and two sauces—a simple yogurt sauce and muhammara, a roasted red pepper spread that easily comes together in the food processor. I use a different muhammara recipe than the one that appeared with the original köfte recipe in Bon Appetit—I think the traditional version is a bit more flavorful, if slightly more time intensive. I’ve included my favorite version below, which, by the way, you can also serve as a dip with pita chips or vegetables.
And so every few months, like clockwork, our bellies begin to grumble for a taste of the Middle East—the earthy flavor of the lamb meatballs, the taste of the bright and sweet roasted red pepper spread (aka muhammara), the clean tangy yogurt sauce spiked with tahini, and the chewy goodness of warm pita bread. My stomach is growling just thinking about it.
We like to slather the pita bread with the two sauces, then pile on the meatballs and fried onions, and roll the whole thing up like a wrap—that way every bite is a little piece of heaven. As a weeknight meal or a Sunday dinner, this is a lamb recipe you’ll want to return to often.
Lamb Köfte with Yogurt Sauce and Muhammara
This recipe (except for the muhammara) is adapted from one by Jean Thiel Kelley that appeared in the January 2010 issue of Bon Appetit. The muhammara recipe first appeared in the December 1993 issue of Gourmet; I prefer it to the one included with the original recipe—it’s more authentic and it really makes this dish sing. Tahini is a smooth paste made from sesame seeds available at most supermarkets; pomegranate molasses is a thick, heady syrup that’s often used in Mediterranean cooking. You can find it at nicer supermarkets, specialty shops and at thespicehouse.com. Serves 6 to 8. Click here to download a printable copy of this recipe.
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
1 (7-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained
2/3 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped fine
2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds ground lamb
½ cup minced fresh mint
¼ cup coarsely grated onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
12 5-to 7-inch soft round Middle Eastern flatbreads (preferably with no pocket)
2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil, divided
2 large onions, halved through core, cut crosswise into 1/4- to 1/3-inch slices
Make the yogurt sauce. Stir all ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Cover and chill.
Make the muhammara: In a food processor blend together the peppers, the breadcrumbs, the walnuts, the garlic, the lemon juice, the pomegranate molasses, the cumin, the red pepper flakes, and salt to taste until the mixture is smooth and with the motor running add the oil gradually. Transfer the muhammara to a bowl and serve it at room temperature.
Make the meatballs. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap or foil. Gently mix lamb and next 8 ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant 2 tablespoonfuls for each, roll meat mixture into 1½ -inch meatballs. Arrange on sheet.
Sauté onions. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer onions to 1 side of large rimmed baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm.
Cook meatballs. Add 1 tablespoon oil to same skillet; heat over medium-high heat. Sauté half of meatballs until just cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs, adding oil to skillet if dry.
Warm flatbreads. Place large sheet of foil on work surface. Heat large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add flatbreads to skillet 1 at a time; cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Enclose in foil to keep warm.
Serve. Arrange onions and meatballs on platter. Serve with warm breads, yogurt sauce, and muhammara.