Turkish vegetarian "meatballs" made from bulgur, onions, pepper, pomegranate molasses and a medley of spices. Each kofta is oval-shaped and bears the handprint of its maker.
Turkey is known for its delicious meatballs, called kofta, that are made with ground beef or lamb, bulgur and spices. Çiğ Köfte (pronounced chee kofta) literally translates to "raw meatballs" and is basically beef tartare.
Greater general awareness on the risks of raw meat consumption has given rise to the popularity of this vegetarian version. In Turkey, this dish is considered a "mezze" (appetizer) and is now served in many kabab restaurants as a standard started and even by street food sellers. You can eat it as-is, or served in a lettuce leaf or Turkish lavas bread. You can squeeze fresh lemon juice or drizzle pomegranate molasses onto each kofta before biting into it.
This recipe is a bit time-consuming as it involves soaking time, kneading time, resting time and shaping time. The key is in the kneading -- the longer you knead the dough, the better the texture will be.
Start off by soaking fine bulgur in hot water before combining all the other ingredients to form a dough.
You will need a third cup of raw walnuts that you will pulverize to a powder. You can save yourself some time if you can get your hands on ground raw walnut.
This recipe calls for isot biber (isot pepper) that can be found in international grocery stores. It has a smokey and unusual flavour - it is sweet, spicy, earthy and intense. If you can't find isot pepper, you can use Mexican chipotle.
Some Turkish cooks allow the dough to rest overnight before shaping into patties, but most will shape them the same day they are made. Every single time I've made this dish, I've shaped the patties and kept them in the fridge - they always taste even better the next day!
Store the koftas in the fridge for up to five days.
Since these koftas contain fresh ingredients and are to be eaten raw, they can't be frozen.
Çiğ Köfte - Vegetarian Turkish Kofta
- 1 cup bulgur fine
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup walnuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon isot pepper (isot biber)
- 1 red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon sumac
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ tablespoon red pepper paste
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 5 tablespoon olive oil
- Romaine lettuce leaves one head
- In a large bowl, soak the bulgur in hot water for 20 minutes or until the bulgur has softened.
- In a food processor, pulverize the walnuts until you have a fine powder.
- Puree the onion in a food processor or grate using a hand grater. Strain and discard juice. Add the onion pulp to the bowl of bulgur.
- Add all ingredients except the olive oil. If you have a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment to mix all the ingredients on low setting for 15 minutes. If you are using your hands, knead the juice dough for about 20 minutes. Allow the dough to rest for one hour.
- When the dough is ready, pour some olive oil into a small bowl. Break off bit-sized pieces of the dough and shape them by squeezing your hand around the mixture, forming the scalloped shape with your fingers.
- Arrange on a platter with lettuce leaves and serve with a bowl of pomegranate molasses.
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