These homemade Turkish meatballs are one of my childhood favorites; my mother would always keep some in the freezer ready to cook instantly and the delicious aroma greets you as soon as you are home. For me there is nothing quite like homemade meatballs, our koftes.
We Turks love our koftes, Turkish meatballs. Almost every region in Turkey has their own specialty of these meatballs. One of my favorite type is the Sultanahmet Koftesi prepared by the historic Sultanahmet Koftecisi; served with fasulye piyazi, delicious beans salad with red onions and sumac aside; they have been making these delicious Koftes in Sultanahmet, Istanbul for almost 100 years.
How about the melt-in-the-mouth Izmir Kofte? Here the Turkish style meatballs are cooked with tomatoes, peppers and onions in a delicious tomato based sauce. A delicious, complete meal you can prepare ahead of time.
Back to our Turkish meatballs 101; here are some important tips on kofte making that my mother taught us; it is simple, delicious and a winner with children, as well as adults. I follow the delicious Turkish blog, Kulaktan Dolma Tarifler by Semsa Denizsel and loved her tips on making proper kofte too. Reading her post put a smile on my face, as my mothers’ voice echoed once again on kofte making Semsa is also the owner of the wonderful Kantin Café in Istanbul and serves delicious home style Turkish food with fresh, seasonal produce, worth a visit. Now comes some important tips on homemade Turkish meatballs:
- I like to have half & half mixture of ground beef and ground lamb in my meatballs; you need at least about 25% of the meat content as ground lamb for that delicious, melt-in-the-mouth meatball taste.
- Our koftes have quite a generous grated onion in it, as well as parsley, stale bread, 1 egg and salt & ground black pepper seasoning. My mother includes a generous amount of stale bread crumbs in the mixture and that makes koftes taste wonderful and moist.
- Mix the ingredients (except the meat) first; that softens the onions and the mixture blends with the meat better.
- Make sure to rest the shaped meatballs in the fridge for about 30 minutes or more before cooking, that helps the meatballs and flavors to settle.
- If you are a kofte, meatballs fan like we are, make a double batch and freeze half of the shaped but uncooked meatballs in the fridge. You can layer these meatballs in a container and put cling film between each layer, so that they don’t stick together. Just make sure to remove the cling film before cooking.
- A great tip from Semsa; cook one meatball on the pan or grill first to check the seasoning. If they need more salt or pepper, add some to the rest of the meatballs. Good seasoning is essential.
Homemade Turkish Meatballs, Kofte; A Childhood Favorite:
Serves 4 – 6
225gr/ 8oz ground beef
225gr/8oz ground lamb
1 medium or 2 small onions, grated
3 slices of stale bread (of your choice), crusts removed
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Light olive oil for shallow frying
Soak the stale bread slices in a small bowl of water then squeeze them dry. In a large bowl, combine all the kofte, meatball ingredients except the meat and knead well. That will help soften the onions and blend the ingredients homogeneously. Stir in the ground meat, season with salt (about 1 – 2 tsp.) and ground black pepper to your taste. Knead for a good 3-5 minutes with your hands, until the mixture becomes elastic and mixed well. Cover this mixture with a cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes or just before cooking them, have a bowl of water next to you and start shaping the meatballs. First wet your hands and take a small tangerine size of the meat mixture and roll into a ball. Slightly flatten each ball with the heel of your hand. Place the meatballs in a tray ready cook side by side and continue until all the meat mixture is shaped into meatballs.
Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a wide, heavy (preferably non-stick) pan and place the meatballs, 4 -5 of them at a time. Cook for about 6 -8 minutes (3- 4 minutes each side), until cooked and browned on all sides. Alternatively, you can grill them until brown both sides. Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
Serve the meatballs hot with this refreshing grated carrots and red cabbage salad by the side. Cacik dip of diced cucumber in yoghurt with dried mint would go also really well with these delicious meatballs.
Grated Carrots and Red Cabbage Salad – Havuc ve Kirmizi Lahana Salatasi
This crunchy, vibrant salad is popular served in lokantas as well as kebab houses in Turkey and accompanies grilled meat, fish and vegetables deliciously. It is simple to make and the refreshing lemon juice and the sharp balsamic vinegar dressing pair greatly with the carrots and the red cabbage.
Serves 4 – 6
1 small red cabbage
2 medium carrots, grated
1 small or ½ medium size cucumber, halved and sliced
30 ml/ 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
45 ml. / 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Remove the tough outer leaves and the middle hard part of the red cabbage. Halve the cabbage and slice thinly. Place the sliced cabbage in a bowl and stir in the balsamic vinegar, salt and the pepper; using your hands to knead well to soften them up. If you have time, cover and keep this marinated cabbage in the fridge for a few hours before serving, for all the flavors to blend in. This salad keeps in the fridge for a good couple of days and it will taste even better the next day!
Place the grated carrots in a bowl and drizzle 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and the lemon juice over. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Place the dressed carrots and the cabbage side by side on a serving dish. Add the sliced cucumbers and drizzle the remaining olive oil over the cabbage and cucumbers. Serve the salad with your meatballs or grilled fish or vegetables.