The best spherical meat treats
By Janis McMath, Editor-in-Chief
Turkey is the Mozart of ground meat composition.
Meatballs! Every culture seems to have its own version of smashing meat together into a delicious sphere—so much so that the epic origin story of meatballs is shrouded in mystery. But my personal favourite meatball is köfte. Köfte is the Turkish variation of a meatball; this meat is commonly grilled (which is their ultimate form) but they can be fried, baked, steamed, etc. And when it comes to meatballs, Turkey is the Mozart of ground meat composition; there are a staggering number of variations of köfte, and many different regions each have their own version.
Grilled köfte are the best, no
doubt. They are easy to make on a cast iron pan—but oven-baked köfte are also simple and accessible.
Either way is super delicious, so don’t fret. The versions I love include
potatoes to soak up the fat of meatballs, green peppers and tomatoes baked
alongside the meatballs, and cacik (similar to tzatziki) for dipping. And if
you’re feeling left out because you’re vegetarian or vegan, don’t worry! Turkey
also offers a red lentil meatless meatball (called mercimek köftesi) that I
will cover in next week’s issue!
500 grams of ground meat. (Some people do half lean beef and half regular, some do half lamb and half beef etc. I like all regular beef personally.)
1 egg as a binding agent. (If you are allergic you can substitute half a teaspoon of baking soda or baking powder.)
1 white onion, diced (size to taste, but I love and recommend a big honking onion)
4 to 8 tablespoons of breadcrumbs (you can also make breadcrumbs at home with stale bread)
dill or parsley (or both)
salt (1 to 2 teaspoons suffices for most)
pepper (freshly ground if possible!)
tons of garlic
3 tablespoons of tomato paste (for the oven-baked version)
spices you love like cumin, paprika, oregano, nutmeg, etc.
medium Yukon Gold potatoes (my all-time favourite, their natural taste is somewhat buttery)
Put your meat, egg, diced onion, diced dill, diced garlic, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and spices in a bowl. Do not be stingy with your spices as a meatball is nothing without good seasoning.
Mix it all up—and while you can do this in a blender, I’d recommend blending it by hand. Texture-wise, I prefer hand-mixed to paste. When rolling the meatballs, put a little olive oil in your hands to prevent stickiness when forming the spheres. Make sure the balls are small and flat. Surface area is great. If you are oven baking these babies, layer the potatoes between the meatballs so they can soak up all the fat that is going to bubble in the oven. Place tomatoes and peppers in the same pan. Mix tomato paste with water and a pinch of salt and pepper and drizzle over meatballs. (375 F for 30 to 45 minutes!) If you are going to cook the meatballs on your cast iron, heat it up to medium heat and keep flipping your köfte until brown, crispy, and heavenly. Cook tomatoes and peppers alongside meatballs. (Personally, I don’t cook the potatoes on the cast iron since the meatballs cook so much faster on the pan than in the oven… and I don’t want to wait longer to eat.)
Cacik (like tzatziki)
plain yogurt (higher percentage yogurts are the best—like 3 percent)
fresh mint or dill
Mix it all together—use whatever amounts fit your taste. If you find the texture is too thick for your taste, add a tiny bit of cold water. Most important part of this recipe? It must be left to sit for a while so the garlic can permeate the yogurt. Leave it in the fridge overnight for the best flavour. Your gut will thank you for cutting the grease with this treat!