This is a wonderful, comforting dish for the cold days coming up. I remember my mother making it when I was a child and we were all looking forward to it. The meatballs topped with the garlicky potato puree look so pretty, a real winner for everyone, and an impressive dish for entertaining and sharing with friends.
I adopted this recipe from Ozcan Ozan’s wonderful Turkish cookery book, “The Sultan’s Kitchen”, a present sent by The Foods of Turkey website for my winning recipe Patlicanli Borek (pastry stuffed with eggplant puree filling). Like the most of Turkish casseroles, you can cook ahead of time (up to a day before) and the leftovers can be frozen successfully, what a joy 🙂
Preparation time: 45 minutes Cooking time: 40 minutes
For the meatballs:
4 slices day old bread, crusts removed
900gr/2lb ground (minced) beef or lamb
1 yellow onion, finely chopped or grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
5ml/1 teaspoon Turkish red pepper flakes
10ml/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Bowl of water to wet hands (for shaping meatballs)
For the vegetable garnish:
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 orange or red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
400 gr/14oz can of chopped tomatoes
10ml/2 teaspoons tomato paste
15ml/1 tablespoon olive oil
8fl oz/1 cup water
For the garlicky mashed potatoes
80ml/1/3 cup milk
30ml/2 tablespoons double/heavy cream
450gr/1lb potatoes cut in chunks
30ml/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
110gr/4oz grated cheddar cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 180 C/ 350 F / Gas mark 4
To make the meatballs (koftes); soak the bread in cold water briefly and squeeze out excess water. In a large bowl, combine the onions, garlic, bread, parsley and spices. Give a good mix with your hands. This will soften the onions and blend the spices really well in the mixture. (Also, you can check the seasoning before adding the eggs and the meat.) Now add the eggs and the ground meat, wet your hands and mix all the ingredients for about 2 minutes. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for about 30 minutes so that all the flavours can mingle.
To make the garlicky mashed potatoes; heat the milk and cream in a small saucepan until it is just warm. Set this mixture aside and keep it warm. Put the potatoes in a large saucepan filled with salted hot water. Bring the pan to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to medium and cook the potatoes for about 15 minutes or until they are tender. Drain the water and once cool, peel the potato skin (I found peeling the skin this way much easier then before cooking). Place the butter and garlic in a sauce pan over low heat, stirring for about 1 minute. Add the potatoes and the warm milk and cream mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Mash the mixture with a potato masher for about 1 minute, until the potatoes are smooth and creamy.
In a large baking dish, place the onions, bell pepper and the can of chopped tomatoes. In a jug, mix the water, olive oil and the tomato paste and mix this with the vegetables in the baking dish.
Wet your hands and divide the meat mixture into 6 equal portions (or more if you prefer smaller meatballs). Shape each one into a round ball and flatten each one slightly and make a well in the centre of each one. Place the meatballs in the baking dish and put equal amounts of the mashed potatoes in the centre of each meatball. Sprinkle the grated cheese over them and bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until the top of the potatoes lightly browned.
Serve the meatballs warm with vegetable garnish and some plain rice by the side. Dollop of yoghurt or some leafy salad would accompany this dish really well.