Here we go for another long and arduous cooking post, bulgur köfte is a delicacy that I remember all through my childhood and well into adulthood. This is a Turkish dish but I think that is probably more Mediterranean or Middle Eastern, this recipe comes from what my mum remembers and some pointers from a few places online.
My mum (who is now 91 years old) would spend ages making the dough, cooking the minced meat, making the köftes, and deep drying them. Then we would descend on them and eat them like we hadn’t eaten in days!
One of the best things about mum making these was that she would sit with her feet on the chair and slowly but surely make all these by hand giving me and my siblings time to sit there and just talk. Then as my female siblings got older they were charged with helping to make these as well, since I was there too I asked mum if I could make some as well, in her mind that was a no-no because boys are not supposed to cook ! That didn’t stop me, I just took a handful of dough and mum reluctantly guided me through the process of putting one of these things together. Then over time she would let me make one or two, you always knew which ones were mine because they were the largest.
Anyway, enough reminiscing what are these things and how do you make them? They are shells of cracked wheat stuffed with precooked minced lamb or beef (with onions). Once the shells are made you deep fry them till they are golden brown, then time to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
- Bulgur, cracked wheat, 1 pound (453 grams). You should be able to find this in any middle eastern store and even the local supermarket
- Plain white flour, I use unbleached
- Minced lamb or beef, 1 pound (453 grams), I used lamb this time
- Onion, large, finely chopped
- Cilantro, I call this fancy parsley, the Turkish name for this is maydanoz.
- Vegetable Oil
Preparing the Bulgur
This is the easy part, pour the bulgur into a large dish, add some salt and paprika and then pour in boiling water, stir, and wait, you’ll have time to cook the meat while this does it’s funky stuff and sucks up all the water and expands. Just stir it up every now and then while preparing the meat.
Cooking the Meat
Take a large frying pan and put in some oil, start frying the onions for a little while till they get as little soft, then add the minced meat, break it up while it cooks; add salt and pepper to taste.
When the meat is fully cooked drain the fat, I do this by placing the pan on something so it drains to one side of the pan and then remove the meat.
Further Preparation of the Bulgur
So you now have the minced meat ready for use but the bulgur still needs some work, pour out the bulgur onto a clean surface (I use my counter top), this is where you can add the flour to bind the bulgur together. So, you will ask me how much flour do you need to add, well this is where you need to play this by ear, what I mean is that you try it and see whether you get the right texture.
What you are after is a dough that is a little sticky but holds itself together so you can make the container for the meat. Add some flour, kneed the dough, see if it seems right, if not add some more flour or water till it feels like it will hold together. I put about half a pound of flour in this mix.
Once you have the dough prepared leave it covered in a tea towel for about 30-40 minutes to let it rest, this makes the dough easier to work with.
Getting Ready to Build the Köftes
Making a Köftes
This is where the fun starts, the basic technique is to take some dough and roll it into a ball, then you work it to make a container, fill the container of dough with the cooked meat, then you work it to close the top. Keep doing this till you run out of dough or meat.
As before you should leave these for abut 10-20 minutes to firm up, this gives you some time to clear up everything ready for deep frying.
I use a small pan which can fry 3 at a time, get the vegetable oil to a medium to high heat and gently lower each kofte into the oil so the outer shell start to cook, I hold it there for about 10 seconds. Doing this will prevent the kofte from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once all three are added keep an eye on them while they cook to a beautiful golden brown, this takes about 5-7 minutes (you decide when they are done). Move them around occasionally to ensure that they do not stick.
These are best eaten when they are fresh out of the pan and cooled for a while but you can reheat them. I use a microwave set at 60% power and zap it for about 1-2 minutes, the insides will get very hot so be careful of the steam.
That’s it folks, I hope you have fun making these and (of course) eating them. Please leave a comment or suggestion and let me know if you took the plunge and actually made these.
P.S. Thanks to my wife Terrie for putting up with me making a mess taking over the kitchen, for cleaning up after me, and for taking the photos (she’ll hate me for mentioning her).