I’ve had a lifelong love for Middle Eastern cuisine. Being raised on Greek food, it stands to reason that I would love other cuisines that use warm spices, pitas, and yogurt. And growing up in a place with tons of authentic Lebanese restaurants sure didn’t hurt, either.
I’ve been getting a lot of ground beef from our farmer, mostly because it’s fairly inexpensive and generally makes meals with good leftovers. But, a lot of times I just run out of ideas when I’ve already made burgers or pasta. Enter kafta, one of my favorite Middle Eastern dishes – it’s basically ground meat (lamb or beef may be used) mixed with some allspice and a few basic meatball ingredients. I love how easy and delicious these are, and they’re just a little different than our standard Greek keftedes. We have these with fattoush (and I often end up shoving some of the fattoush in the pocket with the kafta), and the meal elicits remarks from Zachary like, “This was a good dinner. I really love all the things in this dinner!” Gotta love it.
Some people use additional spices in these, like cinnamon, cardamom, etc. I find that allspice is really all they need, though certainly those ingredients wouldn’t hurt. Thankfully, when I made these recently, I forgot to write down my recipe as I was going, so I had to make it again, to make sure I was able to give you an accurate recipe. :) I’ve used a basic tahini sauce here, but tzatziki would be equally good, or even just adding a couple spoonfuls of yogurt to the tahini below would also work.
1 slice sandwich bread
a little milk or water
1 lb. lean ground beef or lamb (or a combination)
1/2 small onion, grated or minced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1.25 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne (optional)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. tahini
1.5 Tbsp. lemon juice
2-3 Tbsp. water
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper
Place the sandwich bread in a medium mixing bowl and pour enough milk or water over the top so that the bread gets soaked. Let it sit there as you prep your other ingredients, then squeeze out the excess liquid (discard) and break up the bread. Add the onion, garlic, parsley, allspice, cumin, cayenne (if using), egg, salt and pepper; lightly mix. Shape into long strips, elongated meatballs, or any shape you prefer and thread on skewers if using.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. Once hot, add the skewers/meat, and cook until done to your liking. You may need to work in batches, adding more olive oil in between if necessary.
To make the tahini sauce, combine all ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper.