Sultan Selim Kofte

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Köfte is one of those dishes that calls to mind something slightly different for every person. Apparently, some company in Turkey determined that there are 291 varieties of köfte native to that country alone. (I get my information via Wikipedia’s kofte page, because I can’t read the original article in Turkish – so hopefully it’s not lying to me.) And that’s just within Turkey! Köfte (or kofta, kufta, kyuft’a, qofte, cufte, keftés, kopta…) is common everywhere from Morocco to Pakistan, and Azerbaijan to Croatia, with so many variations in between.

For Selim, his memories of köfte are just as variable. Think of how varying “American” meatballs can be… there’s variation in meat content (pork, beef, chicken, veal, lamb, turkey, tofu), sauces (marinara, BBQ, mustard, gravy), and cooking technique (crockpot, microwave, baked, fried). Köfte is no different, there’s a lot of variability within families, regions, and countries. I think most people will say that traditionally, köfte is charcoal-grilled as it imparts a distinctive smokiness and flavor that’s so unique. Unfortunately, we don’t have a grill, which kind of ruins that plan, so we decided to broil these to approximate that grilled flavor as much as we could. After living and cooking in our Columbia, SC apartment for over 2 years, we finally set off the smoke detector!

For our köfte tonight, we didn’t try to replicate a specific, authentic type of köfte. Instead, we tried to channel our favorite flavors into our own creation. Ally named these köfte after (one or the other of) Selim’s namesakes to differentiate from all of those 291 original Turkish varieties. You can be the judge as to which Sultan Selim Ally is referencing… Sultan Selim I (aka Selim the Grim or Selim the Resolute) who was a fiery tempered ruler who greatly expanded the Ottoman Empire or Sultan Selim II (aka Selim the Blond) who was a well-loved, soft, generous ruler. Our köfte has a spicy taste/temperament but is sure to be well-loved by all, a perfect combination.

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Selim, outside of Sultan Selim’s tomb

Sultan Selim Köfte

Ingredients: 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 lb lamb (80/20 – you want some fat here)
  • 1 egg (whisked)
Instructions:
  1. Make the spice mix by combining the spices in a small prep bowl, set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, thoroughly mix the garlic, shallot, and lamb.
  3. Work the spice mix into the lamb slowly, ensuring that there aren’t any clumps of spice and continue working the meat with your hands until well mixed.
  4. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for ~30 minutes.
  5. Now stir in the whisked egg until well-combined.
  6. Using your hands, form into sigara-shaped patties and place on a sheet of foil.
  7. Broil/Grill/Pan Fry: watching carefully until the tops begin to brown and crisp, flipping once to ensure even cooking and charring. (Broilers, grills, and pans are so variable that we don’t want to tell you a specific time and screw up your köfte!) *If grilling, we highly recommend using skewers so as to not lose any köftes to the flames.
Serves 2-4
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Sfiha

sfiha

Yesterday morning before going to the grocery store, we had a pretty standard conversation around here…

“Do you want to pick out a new recipe to try tonight before we go to the store?”

“Duh.”

Selim was perusing one of our favorite books, The World’s Best Street Food, from Lonely Planet. Our friend Kayla gave it to us for Christmas one year. The recipe for sfiha, which are Lebanese meat pies, caught Selim’s eye. From an eyeball at the pictures and the recipe, sfiha reminded him of one of his Turkish favorites, lahmacun. So, we decided to try it tonight.

This recipe does include several ingredients you might not have on hand, but nothing you wouldn’t be able to use again. We had to get a few things. We couldn’t find pomegranate molasses though. This is commonly used in many dishes in countries that were once part of the Ottoman Empire… think Turkish or Lebanese food. Well we couldn’t find pomegranate molasses at the store OR any fresh pomegranates to make our own. So below, you’ll see a non-traditional improvisation. Instead of pomegranate, we used some of our fresh cherries and made a little syrup out of them by squeezing the juice out and reducing it with a touch of balsamic and lemon juice. [Most of the time Whole Foods, international grocery stores, and Middle Eastern markets will have this ingredient, we were just feeling lazy today and didn’t put in that much effort.]

Conclusion? These are delicious! The filling is so flavorful. The more you think about it, the more flavors you notice. Meat! Spices! Mint! Pine nuts! So many tastes!! Ours came out a little greasy. I think the butter in the recipe is completely unnecessary and would definitely leave it out next time. Didn’t ruin the deliciousness though!

Sfiha

Adapted from Lonely Planet’s The World’s Best Street Food

Ingredients:

Dough
  • 1 cup warm milksfihaingredients
  • 1 tsp active yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Filling
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1lb ground lamb
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large tomato, dicedrollingballs
  • 5 large mint leaves, torn
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tsp Balsamic vinegar*
  • 1 tsp lemon juice*
  • 20 cherries, pitted*
  • 2 tbsp butter {I would omit this next time!}
*{Can skip this if you have pomegranate molasses. In that case, use 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses.}
Optional Toppings
  • Additional yogurt
  • Additional pine nuts
  • Feta cheese
  • Lemon wedgessfihacounter

Instructions: 

  1. Set the cup of milk out so it can warm to room temperature. You can check with a thermometer; you want the milk to be ~100 degrees. Once it’s warm, whisk in the yeast. Once the yeast is dissolved, set the bowl aside until it begins to froth and bubble a little bit.
  2. Now mix the other dough ingredients in another bowl. Mix well.
  3. Once the milk/yeast bowl has frothed up, add it to the bowl of a stand mixer with the bread hook attachment. Start the mixer on low and add the flour/etc bowl to the stand mixer bowl. Allow this to work together for ~10 minutes. (Alternately, do this step by hand and knead for 10 minutes.)
  4. Now cover the dough in the bowl with a dry cloth and allow to rise. You want it to double in size. This will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  5. Take a break for awhile or make your filling so its ready when the dough is. The filling can sit in the fridge for awhile if need be.
  6. To start the filling, add the pine nuts to a small pan, so they make one flat layer. Toast over medium heat for only a few minutes. You’ll notice them start to get brown and toasty. It only takes a few minutes… don’t let them burn! Remove from heat and set aside.
  7. Pit and halve cherries. Squish them with the back of a spoon to juice the cherries. Place the juice in a small pan over low heat with the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. It will thicken up after only 5 minutes or so. Once your juice/sauce has thickened, remove from heat.
  8. Combine toasted pine nuts, cherry/pomegranate syrup, onion, tomatoes, garlic, mint, and spices in a food processor. Pulse until they are well-combined.
  9. In a large bowl, combine the above mixture with lamb, yogurt, and tahini. It may seem a little on the liquid-y side (I thought so!), but it’s fine. Refrigerate if you’re still waiting on your dough.
  10. Once dough is ready, roll into small balls between your palms. You want the balls to be fairly small… prune-sized?? Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  11. Flour a dry surface and roll out your dough balls into rough circles.
  12. Place 1-2 tbsp of the meat filling in the center of the dough, depending upon the size of your dough. You want a fairly small dollop, smaller than you might be inclined to use. Pinch up the edges of the dough into corners.
  13. Place little pastries on a cookie sheet that’s either covered with a Silpat mat (greatest invention!) or sprayed with cooking spray.
  14. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. The edges should be golden-brown and the filling should be sizzling.
  15. Enjoy plain or top with a dollop of yogurt, some feta, extra pine nuts, or a squeeze of lemon. sfihaoven
This recipe makes 25-30 portions.