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.
Sultan Selim Köfte
- 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)
- Make the spice mix by combining the spices in a small prep bowl, set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, thoroughly mix the garlic, shallot, and lamb.
- 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.
- Let the mixture sit at room temperature for ~30 minutes.
- Now stir in the whisked egg until well-combined.
- Using your hands, form into sigara-shaped patties and place on a sheet of foil.
- 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.