Tuesday, 11 June 2013

"Kofta/ Kifta" Ground Beef Kabobs and a Tale of Two Sauces

The Kabob. The epitome of Middle Eastern cuisine.  If it is ground, it is called Kifta or Kofta. If it is cubed and placed on a skewer it is called Shish Kabob. Whether using ground beef (or lamb) or beef/ lamb cubes on a skewer, the end result is always delicious!  Obtaining a recipe for ground kifta is like obtaining the classic American meatloaf recipe, no matter who you ask, you will get a different answer every time.  There is no wrong way and the possibilities are endless. I have wonderful memories of "helping" my mother chop and form these kifta kabobs for family BBQ's. If I close my eyes, I can imagine the whole family gathering around, drinking tea, laughing and the kids playing, while Arabic music is playing in the background.

I've experimented with many combinations of spices and ratios and so far, I found this one to work for me and my family.  But who knows, that may change!

You can have these kifta kabobs alone or with the sauces I've shown you below for a more well rounded meal.  It is so versatile!


Let's get started with the meat first...

The line-up showing up for role call

Chop the parsley and cilantro

Next add the finely minced (or grated) onion and garlic

Here is the shape and size of a "mini-kabob"
You could either broil/BBQ at this point or put in one of the two sauces below

Ground Beef Kabobs (kifta/kofta):

2lbs Ground beef or lamb (even experiment with a half beef, half lamb combo!)
1 Onion finely chopped or grated, drain onion juice if possible
1/2 C Parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/2 C Cilantro leaves, finely chopped
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
1/2 tsp Allspice
2 tsp Sumac
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Coriander
1/2-1 tsp Cumin *Optional
4 cloves garlic, minced

Mix all very well carefully by hand (or using a stand-mixer with the paddle attachment).  Try not to squeeze the meat too much, this will make it very dense. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour to allow all the spices, garlic and onion to penetrate into the meat.  Doing this is called "resting". You can even let it rest in the fridge overnight.  This recipe makes about 33-35 3" "mini-kabobs".  This is very good on the BBQ!  If you decide to do a BBQ then the tahini sauce (recipe below) can be made on the side and put as a condiment as they do in Middle Eastern restaurants.  You can form the ground beef kabob mixture on a skewer and BBQ it. Cucumber Mint Yogurt and Sumac Tomato Cucumber Salad are very tasty with this dish!

*As much as we love cumin in our house, we had mixed feelings about it being in the ground beef kabob recipe.  You can experiment in your household, get 2 lbs of beef or lamb and follow the directions as mentioned above and then divide it into two 1lb portions.  Add 1/4-1/2 tsp Cumin into one of the 1lb portions and test for yourself whether Cumin belongs in your Kabob-eating household.  Let us know what you think!

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Kabobs with Tahini Sauce

Tahini sauce line-up showing up for role call

Juicing and juicing the lemons...

No seeds allowed! But we do welcome the pulp, feel free to add that in.

Put all the ingredients, water, tahini paste, garlic, lemon, olive oil and salt, and blend blend away. 
(by the way, garlic is there too...see it on top?)

Here is what it looks like after it is has been all blended. The bubbles will go way after a while. 
The sauce will resemble a crepe or really thin pancake batter.

Next, the Potatoes. 
I used red potatoes and I didn't peel them. You can use any potato you like. Cut in half and then...

Cut in fourths...

Cut again until it is roughly the same shape as the kabobs. Here's why...

You will will alternate the layout to show kabob, potato, kabob, potato etc...

Feel free to be creative and layer a little on top if you have extra

Pour the tahini sauce mixture on top.

And this will be your gorgeous result! 
OK, well I cheated and I had to actually double this recipe for a dinner gathering. I promise, this recipe will not make this whole thing. It will make half of what you see. Sorry if you were alarmed.

Kabobs with Tahini Sauce:
1 Kabob recipe
2-3 potatoes peeled and sliced like "big fries" or wedges

Equipment needed: Blender

Ingredients for Tahini Sauce:
1 C Tahini Paste (sesame seed paste)
1 C Water
4 Lemons
4 Garlic cloves
1 tsp Salt
1/4 C Olive Oil

To make the tahini sauce put all the ingredients in no particular order (NOT potatoes or beef) in your blender and puree till you get a thin sauce. Form the kabobs and arrange in a 11" x 15" pan with the potatoes. Alternate the layout so you have meat, potato, meat, potato ect. and put in a preheated 400 oven for about 10 min.  You'll see a nice color forming on the meat and potatoes. You'll also notice the fat from the meat begin to "drain" as well. Then put the tahini sauce over the meat and potatoes and cover the pan with foil and put back into the oven until the potatoes are cooked. About 30 min. Garnish with chopped parsley if you like. Cucumber Mint Yogurt and Sumac Tomato Cucumber Salad are very tasty with this dish!  Serve with rice or bread or both!

Kabobs with Tomato Sauce

The line-up showing up for role call

Mince the garlic and saute in 3 tbsp or so olive oil

Once the garlic is fragrant, add the tomato paste

Cook the tomato paste for about 10 minutes to cook off some acidity

Add water in 1/4 cup increments or so and whisk in to fully incorporate before adding more water

Add salt, allspice and pepper. 
The salt was camera shy and decided to take a quick dive to the bottom

Fully incorporated...

And this is the consistency you will be looking for

Arrange the meat and potatoes like so...

And this will be your final result!
OK, I cheated on this one too. I doubled the recipe again.

Kabobs in Tomato Sauce:
1 Kabob recipe
11x15 pan

2-3 Potatoes peeled and sliced like "big fries" or wedges
One 6oz can tomato paste (equiv to 1/2 cup if you are using a glass jarred tomato paste)
2 1/2 - 3 C Water
2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1/4 tsp Allspice
Olive oil for saute

In a small sauce pan, heat about 2 tbsp or so olive oil and saute the garlic until fragrant and slightly colored.  Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently.  Parts will turn a deeper red and almost brown.  It may even look like it's burning! But it's OK!  The point is to cook off some of the acidity of the tomato paste.  You will notice a deep aroma begin to emit...YUM.  Continue to cook the tomato paste for about 10 min. Then, slowly whisk in the water in about 1/4 C increments, making sure that the water is fully incorporated into the tomato paste mixture before adding more water.  Once all the water is incorporated you will have a tomato broth that resembles canned tomato sauce, but it tastes so much better than canned tomato sauce.  (I always end up using 2 1/2 C water but in some cases I find that I need to add an extra 1/2 C.  I suppose this will depend on the brand of tomato paste etc.)  Add the spices, stir, and bring to a low simmer.  Cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times.

To assemble the pan, layer the 3" "logs" and alternate the layout so you have meat, potato, meat, potato ect.  You will have 3 long rows. Not all the kabobs may fit so you can "squeeze" them wherever you like. Then pour the sauce on the top and cover with foil.  Cook in a 400 oven for about 45 min or until the potatoes are fully cooked.  Serve with rice or bread...or if you love carbs like I do, serve it with both rice and bread. Cucumber Mint Yogurt and Sumac Tomato Cucumber Salad are very tasty with this dish!

If you plan on assembling this and cooking it the next day, keep in mind it will take longer than 45min to cook.  It will probably take about 1 1/2 hrs because it is coming from a cold fridge.

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