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Casserole of Turkish Meatballs with Aubergine, Potatoes, Tomatoes and Peppers – Sebzeli Firin Kofte

There is a concept of “lokanta” restaurants at home, where slowly cooked and ready to eat casseroles of meatballs and vegetables, vegetables cooked in olive oil, stuffed vegetables and many more are displayed on serving trays. The idea is you get a chance to eat freshly cooked  “home style” dinners in a restaurant in no time; you simply pick up your tray and fill in your plate with these scrumptious food and they are very good value too. There is no waiting, and you can have a healthy, delicious meal within 30 minutes. Please check out my previous post Slow Cooked Turkish Fast Food for more delicious, affordable and healthy ways of eating out in Turkey.

Pre-cooked delicious casseroles, pilaffs, vegetables cooked in olive oil; all ready to eat

This week’s recipe is an all-in-one pot popular meatball and vegetable casserole (not only with the children but with the adults too!), one of the many you can experience at lokantas, in Turkey. It is delicious, healthy and you can easily re-create at home. The casserole can either be cooked on the stove top or baked in the oven, and you can bake ahead of time. It makes a complete and hearty main course served with plain rice or with my recent bulgur pilaf with sautéed almonds. I like to add a variety of seasonal vegetables to my meatballs casserole; zucchini (courgettes) and peas work well here too. You can add as much red pepper flakes as you would like for a spicier flavor.

Casserole of Turkish meatballs and vegetables; a favorite for all

Baked Turkish meatballs casserole from Ozlem’s Turkish Table, image by Sian Irvine Food Photography

I love our hearty and healthy casseroles as well as regional specialties in Turkish cuisine. I made a vegetarian version of this,  adding earthy chickpeas – Baked Vegetables with chickpeas at my new cookery book, SEBZE, Vegetarian recipes from my Turkish kitchen, which you can order here.

I usually double this casserole recipe and freeze half the portion, as it freezes very well.

Serves 4-6

Preparation time – 30 minutes          Cooking time – 40-45 minutes

For the kofte (meatballs):

450 gr /1 lb ground lamb, beef or mixture

1 medium onion, grated

2 slices of stale bread, soaked in water and squeezed dry

1 egg, beaten

1 bunch finely chopped Italian parsley

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

A bowl of water for kneading kofte / wetting hands

 And the rest:

450 gr / 1 lb medium potatoes, sliced like thin apple quadrants

1 green, red or yellow bell pepper, deseeded and sliced

1 medium carrot, coarsely sliced

1 aubergine, cut in half lengthways and sliced

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

400 gr /14 oz (1 can of) chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon red pepper paste -optional-

1 tablespoon olive oil

240 ml / 1 cup water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes


Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F


Ingredients for the Turkish meatballs

Discard the crusts of the bread, soak in the water and squeeze dry. Then crumble them into a large bowl. Add all the kofte, meatballs ingredients except the meat and knead well. This will soften the onions and enable the spices to blend in the mixture evenly. Add the ground meat and knead well again until the mixture resembles soft dough. With wet hands take a piece the size of a large walnut and roll into a large finger shape about 1 inch thick. Continue until all the mixture is used. The meatballs can now be covered and stored in the fridge until required.

Salt helps the moisture to come out of the eggplants; make sure you drain these bitter juices

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the eggplant (aubergine) lengthways in stripes like a zebra. Slice the eggplant lengthways, about ½ inch thick. Then cut each slice into three parts. Sprinkle some salt over them and leave for about 15 minutes. Squeeze out their moisture with paper towel.

Coat the vegetables with olive oil, red pepper paste or with tomato paste and red pepper flakes

In an oven dish, spread the vegetables. I like to coat the vegetables with the red pepper paste, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix the vegetables and make sure they all get this lovely coating (if you like a milder taste, you can replace the red pepper paste with concentrated tomato paste, and add more red pepper flakes for a spicy flavor). Place the meatballs between the vegetables. Add the chopped tomatoes and water, mix well. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and the sauce has thickened.

Baked Turkish meatballs with eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes; an all in one delicious dish

Baked Turkish meatballs with eggplants, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes; an all in one delicious dish

Serve hot, with plain rice or bulgur pilaf with almonds by the side.

Have you ever tried our traditional drink Ayran? Ayran is a mixture of plain natural yoghurt, water and a pinch of salt blended together. To make ayran, blend 2 cups of plain yoghurt with 3/4 cup water with a pinch of salt, for about 20 seconds. You will see a nice thick foam and bubbles formed at the top. Serve in water glasses with a few ice cubes in them. Ayran is a popular drink at home, especially with kebabs and casseroles, and it would go well with this casserole too.

Wonderfully foamy and bubbly Ayran; our traditional drink with kebabs and casseroles.

Have you ever tried Ayran? Have you had any experience at eating in lokantas in Turkey?  I would love to hear from you, please share with us, thank you.

Afiyet Olsun!




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29 Responses to Casserole of Turkish Meatballs with Aubergine, Potatoes, Tomatoes and Peppers – Sebzeli Firin Kofte

  1. Ozlem July 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    Many thanks for stopping by Peter, you are right, the casserole has a great sauce and wonderful to dip your bread in:)!

  2. Jen @ Savory Simple July 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    This looks truly wonderful! My husband has been begging for meatballs so this might just be the recipe!

    • Ozlem July 16, 2012 at 9:04 am #

      Thanks Jen! such an easy recipe packed with goodness and flavor, hope you and your husband enjoy it!:)

  3. Alida July 15, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    Lovely looking food.
    I am fascinated by Airan and would like to try it at home. Sounds very interesting.
    Great post!

    • Ozlem July 16, 2012 at 8:57 am #

      Ciao Alida,
      Many thanks – ayran is our ultimate traditional drink, and great with grilled meats and kebabs – a few ice cubes in it make it really refreshing, glad you will give it a go:)

  4. Susan July 15, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    Just delicious, Ozlem! And perfect with all the summer vegetables.

    On a separate note: I’m sure you can make the parfaits with raspberries, but I would strain the sauce to remove the seeds before stirring in the fresh fruit. Enjoy!

    • Ozlem July 16, 2012 at 8:54 am #

      Thanks Susan, it is a good summer casserole with veg and meatballs:)
      Thank you for the parfait update, I will strain the juices of the rasberry, look forward to trying it!

  5. Kath July 16, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    YES and YES for your two questions. I found that the Ayran is an excellent drink with grilled meat and the durum…it’s refreshing and help the digestion. For the Lokantas, it’s a pleasure for the eyes before the taste…when you enter a Lokanta, you’ll have right away hungry 🙂

    • Ozlem July 16, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

      What a lovely comment Kath, thank you so much – we speak the same language, I feel exactly the same! In Turkish we say “first your eyes need to feast” and that’s the case in the lokantas. Glad you had such an enjoysble experience 🙂

      • Ebru Nart November 8, 2020 at 7:36 pm #

        Would you freeze the dish after it’s cooked or could you make it a head a freeze it before cooking? Thanks x

        • Ozlem Warren November 9, 2020 at 11:06 am #

          Merhaba Ebru,

          I tend to bake the whole thing and freeze in portions, it works well. I hope you enjoy it, Afiyet Olsun,
          Ozlem x

  6. Phil in the Kitchen July 16, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    Lovely dish – there’s something very satisfying about meatballs. Red pepper paste is a wonderful thing but, for some reason, I’ve never made my own. I really must. I’ve never tried Ayran either but that’s high on my list too.

    • Ozlem July 17, 2012 at 8:40 am #

      You are right Phil, meatballs are indeed so comforting and satisfying; Turkish casseroles have plenty of sauce in it, and meatballs are quite moist too. Ayran is a refreshing drink – for a little twist, you may add a few leaves of fresh mint; look forward to hearing what you make of it:)
      Re to make the red pepper paste; you may get some spicy red peppers at the Cheam market; mind you, they do sell a lovely red pepper paste in jars there too, so call is yours:)

  7. deniz July 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    Drooooool… My mother used to make sulu köfte often. I haven’t had any in ages, I should remind her – or make it myself 🙂
    Love ayran!

    • Ozlem July 17, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

      Merhaba Deniz;)
      Delighted to see you comment, and lovely to find your blog! Wished you were close by, I’d be happy to make some kofte for you;)

  8. Peri July 20, 2012 at 2:23 am #

    Wow Ozlem, these kofte (guess what? another shared Indian food term, we call it kofta…just love finding our cuisine commonalities!) look delicious and mouthwatering. I love eating them just as is:) All the pictures look so colorful and inviting!

    • Ozlem July 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

      I so enjoy the similarities in our cuisines Peri, even the words themselves, fascinating 🙂 Very glad you enjoyed the post!

  9. Peri's Spice Ladle July 22, 2012 at 4:48 am #

    Dear Ozlem…looks like my comments are not coming through now! love these koftes ( we have similar koftas in India, like finding common threads:) they look so simple and delicious!

    • Ozlem July 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

      Dear Peri, apologies for my late replies, we have been away for the weekend – lovely to get your comments, as always!

  10. RainDrop July 23, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    Many thanks for this recipe, that was delicious! It brigs back my memories from Turkey. 🙂

    • Ozlem Warren July 23, 2013 at 8:56 am #

      You are very welcome, thank you for letting me know, I am glad you enjoyed it and it brought happy memories of your visit to Turkey : )

  11. Eileen Lorich February 25, 2016 at 9:36 am #

    Omg! I can’t wait to try this? I love trying different foods

  12. Rania Woods April 2, 2017 at 3:31 am #

    Thank you it seems delicious! What temperature should the oven be on? And do you have to cover it by aluminum foil?

    • Ozlem Warren April 2, 2017 at 2:07 pm #

      Merhaba Rania, thank you for your note, oven temp is 180 C / 350 F and no need cover with foil as the veg and meatballs get a nice colour, an absolutely delicious and easy dish. Afiyet Olsun! Ozlem

  13. Joss November 15, 2021 at 7:43 pm #

    I am making this for the weekend family meal. I was wondering , if I buy premade red pepper paste, should I get the sweet, mild or hot? Do you/your family have a favorite? Can I make the paste at home?

    • Ozlem Warren November 16, 2021 at 10:34 am #

      Hi Joss, yes you can make pepper paste, here is my recipe link; I like the mild, though my husband likes hot; you can always add some pepper flakes to make it hotter, I hope you enjoy this delicious casserole, Afiyet olsun, Ozlem

  14. Jean May 7, 2024 at 1:29 am #

    What a lovely dish, thank you so much for the recipe!

    • Ozlem Warren May 10, 2024 at 3:51 pm #

      So glad you enjoyed it – Afiyet Olsun! Ozlem


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