Lamb Kofte (or Kofta) is a Middle Eastern dish of minced or ground meat shaped into plump, rectangular kebabs and grilled or, in this case, cooked on the stovetop. Ground lamb develops a deeply complex and delectable flavor when mixed with warm cinnamon and allspice, cool, fresh mint and parsley and buttery pine nuts. These Lamb Kofte are served beside a salad of crisp, shaved carrots tossed in a tangy, cumin spiked dressing all on a bed of tender barley (or other whole grain) tossed with peas then drizzled with garlic yogurt.
This Lamb Kofte recipe comes from a new book by my friend Nicki Sizemore called Build A Bowl. Simply stated: this book is genius. In a bit under 200 pages, Nicki has created a manifesto for eating spectacularly delicious, unfussy, highly nutritious meals. I love her practical approach to nutrition, no rigid rules or dogma, just whole ingredients that happen to be healthful mingled together to create mouthwatering meals.
Her concept is simple: Whole Grain + Vegetable + Protein + Sauce = Meal. Drawing from many ethnicities, Nicki offers up an endless array of creative combinations with this simple formula.
Pictured below is my actual copy of her book with its, “77 fuss-free, customizable recipes for hearty, healthy, one-bowl meals that can be made in an hour or less.” Sound inspiring? It is! See all of those little torn paper bookmarks? Those mark all of the recipes I’m excited to try, from the Huevos Rancheros with Fresh Tomato Salsa to the Roasted Salmon and Asparagus with Herbed Yogurt Sauce.
From my first pass through the book, I knew that I’d start with a recipe using lamb as the protein component. We love lamb and, other than Lamb Ragu, choose how to prepare it based on the weather: Lamb Stew, Roasted Lamb Chops and Lamb Meatballs in the cooler months; Grilled Lamb Chops and Grilled Lamb Kebabs in the warmer months. So the Lamb Kofte caught my attention with it’s convenient year round stovetop method. I’m happy to report that it earned a place in our regular rotation.
If you’re intimidated by cooking whole grains, that alone is reason enough to buy yourself a copy of Build A Bowl. Nicki offers a concise review of ~20 grains and seeds, from the familiar to the exotic, including: a brief history, helpful nutrition information (hint: soaking your grains adds to their food value) and simple cooking techniques.
And each recipe is endlessly versatile, so many choices for every bowl element: base, protein, vegetables, sauce. For meat lovers, low carb and gluten free dieters, vegetarians and vegans alike, there are ample options to please every diet and craving.
Lamb Kofte with Shaved Carrot Salad + Garlic Yogurt
Kofte is a minced meat kabob popular in Turkey and the Middle East, and it’s one of the most delicious things ever. The meat is scented with mint, parsley, cinnamon, and allspice — formed into cigar shapes — and traditionally is grilled over a fire. In this simplified version, you sauté the meat instead. It is served over grains and sweet peas with a quick garlic yogurt sauce, which lends just the right amount of creaminess. Excerpted from Build-a-Bowl by © Nicki Sizemore. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1/4 cup grated onion (grated on the large holes of a box grater)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
- 1/2 cup cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 large carrots
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups thawed frozen peas or cooked fresh peas
- 1 batch cooked grains see recipe notes
Make the lamb
Combine the lamb, onion, ¼ cup of the mint, ¼ cup of the parsley, 2 tablespoons of the pine nuts, the cinnamon, and allspice in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Using your hands or a fork, stir to evenly incorporate all of the ingredients. Shape the meat into eight 4- to 5-inch cigars. Let sit while you prep the salad.
Make the salad
Whisk together the lemon juice, honey, and cumin, and season with salt and pepper in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in 2 tablespoons of the oil. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the carrots into long ribbons into the bowl (shave until the carrots get too thin or wobbly — save the rest for snacking). Toss to coat. Fold in the remaining ¼ cup mint, ¼ cup parsley, and 2 tablespoons pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Working in batches if needed, arrange the kofte in the pan in a single layer. Cook, turning occasionally (nudge them carefully with tongs), until browned on all sides but still pink in the middle, 6 to 9 minutes total (if the kofte are sticking, give them a few minutes longer to brown completely — they should loosen once browned). Transfer to a plate and let cool for 5 minutes
Build the bowls
Stir the peas into the grains.
Spoon the grains and peas into bowls. Arrange the kofte and the carrot salad over each and dollop with the garlic yogurt.
- For the 'Cooked Grains' component, cook 1 cup dry of your favorite grain, rice or seed. Nutrition information includes 1 cup of barley, the grain that I used.
- To make Garlic Yogurt, combine: 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 garlic clove grated on a Microplane, 1 7-ounce container of Greek Yogurt (preferably 2% or whole-milk) and salt and black pepper to taste. Nutrition information does not include Garlic Yogurt.