Baked Kofta in Tahini Sauce
“…However, now people know that different areas do in fact use different spices and at times different ingredients altogether, ultimately producing completely different versions of the same dish. I have come to learn that this inconsistency in the old cuisine is primarily due to the culture of “secret family recipes” that was widespread at the time. Back then, most people did not share their family recipes, instead, they became known for them and people who wanted to enjoy that specific meal most of the time had to have it at the source where that recipe originated. I was always curious to know how specific foods became so popular and how recipes travelled from one place to another.
All the cooks I have spoken with seem to agree that the main streaming of Palestinian recipes was mostly the result of the events that took place in ….”
– excerpt from my book “Plated Heirlooms, Recipes & Stories Through Generations of Palestinian Cooking”
chapter 2, p.121-122
This is essentially an herbed and slightly seasoned minced lamb meat mixture, that is baked in the oven in a Tahini sauce (a sesame paste). This is a very simple dish, where the flavours come mainly from the meat and the Tahina, and is therefore a real treat for meat lovers.
The success of this dish relies on the meat mixture. You can buy the Kofta, ready mixed, at most supermarkets or from the butchers, but nothing beats the flavours of that which you freshly mix yourself. You can, however, ask your butcher for what you need exactly, the cut of meat, the mix of herbs and spices and have them get it ready for you as you finish your grocery shopping.
The most important thing when it comes to the meat mix is that the meat is minced finely, using the small blades or passing twice through the mincing machine. I find that most butchers like to add a lot of fat in their mix! I prefer less fat if any. The fat will render in the baking dish which will cause the tahini sauce to be too rich and even separate. Also leaner meat coagulates together better than fatty meats do, which is necessary here. Another thing to keep in mind, it is better to mix the spices and herbs with the minced meat the day of cooking, rather than have them pre-mixed and frozen. These little details make all the difference to the final flavour and texture of your dish.
Often fried potatoes are added to this dish, I like to keep it simple and prefer not to mask the main flavour of the dish. Let the meat be the star! However, the tomatoes are not negotiable!
* You can use beef or veal, but the veal meat will be drier than lamb meat when done cooking. Lamb stays moist and jucier, which is desired in this dish. You can also go for a 1/2 lamb and 1/2 veal minced meat