Thursday, February 15, 2018

Spicy Beef Armenian Kefta with Tahini & Tzatziki

Kefta is traditionally a meat mixture, often made with beef or lamb, mixed with savoury spices like cumin, paprika, and even a bit of cinnamon for some warmth. There are hundreds of varieties of meatballs – kofta in Arabic and ktsitsot in Hebrew – each with its own unique heritage and specific preparation technique. You can form them into round meatballs, flat patties, thin fingers or more commonly, into torpedo-shaped kebabs that are perfect for wrapping up inside of a pita or serving with any kind of warm flatbread. In this Armeian-inspired version, ground beef is seasoned with a combination of spices, finely chopped onion and fresh herbs. Although some recipes suggest adding breadcrumbs or eggs to bind the mixture, it's not wholly traditional. Chilled for an hour or so before cooking, the kefta are grilled for 6-10 minutes over medium heat until just they're cooked through and beautifully golden brown. Drizzle with Tahini Sauce and serve with flatbread or quinoa, couscous or even a crunchy cucumber and tomato salad plus a heaping bowl of fresh homemade tzatziki, Kefta are healthy, delicious and bursting with flavour.

Spicy Beef Armenian Kefta
Serves 4

1 lb ground beef 
1 medium onion, very finely chopped or grated, then drained in a strainer
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp grated paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp chopped mint leaves, plus extra for garnish

1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
8 roasted cherry tomatoes 

Tahini Sauce:
5 oz light tahini paste
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp Maldon salt

Mix all of the kefta ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, and let sit for 1 hour or longer to allow the flavours to blend. To make the kefta, shape small amounts of the meat mixture into cylinder or sausage shapes and set on a plate. Cover a chill for about an hour to firm up the mixture. To barbecue outdoors, preheat the grill to medium-high and cook the kefta for about 10-12 minutes, or until nicely browned all over but still lovely and juicy on the inside. To cook indoors, preheat oven to 425°F. Heat 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil in a large non stick frying-pan and sear the kefta in batches over high heat, making sure they're not bunched together. Sear them on all sides until golden brown, about 6-10 minutes for each batch for medium-rare. For medium or well-done, place the kefta on a baking tray and cook in the oven for another 2-4 minutes. To serve, arrange the kefta on a warmed platter and garnish with fresh herbs, lemon and a bowl of Tzatziki on the side.

Homemade Tzatziki
Makes 1 cup 

1/2 English cucumber, seeded and grated with skin on
1 cup plain strained Greek yogurt
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, pressed 
1/4 tsp Maldon salt

Slice the cucumber in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Grate the remaining cucumber, spread it out over a large tea towel and wrap it tight, leaving it at least 30 minutes until the grated cucumber is quite dry. 

In the meantime, peel and finely crush the garlic, then combine with the oil in a small bowl and allow to marinate for 10-15 minutes. Combine the cucumber with the garlic mixture, then stir through the yoghurt until evenly distributed along with a squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt to taste. Serve with warm pita or alongside a Greek salad and grilled meats. Leftover tzatziki keeps well, chilled, for about 4 days.

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