Bulgur Köfte (Cracked Wheat Kofte)

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.

History

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.

Ingredients

  • Bulgur, cracked wheat, 1 pound (453 grams).  You should be able to find this in any middle eastern store and even the local supermarket
    Bulgur, Cracked Wheat
  • Plain white flour, I use unbleached
    Unbleached White Flour
  • Paprika
    Paprika
  • Minced lamb or beef, 1 pound (453 grams), I used lamb this time
    Minced Lamb
  • Onion, large, finely chopped
    Onion
  • Cilantro, I call this fancy parsley, the Turkish name for this is maydanoz.Cilantro
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Water

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.

More salt than you think you need, about a 1.5 teaspoons
More salt than you think you need, about a 1.5 teaspoons
Add about 1 tablespoon of paprika
Add about 1 tablespoon of paprika
Add boiling water, more than you think you need.
Add boiling water, more than you think you need.
Bulgur, salt, paprika, water, now mix it up.  The bulgur will suck up all that water.
Bulgur, salt, paprika, water, now mix it up. The bulgur will suck up all that water.

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.

Add some oil, not too much
Add some oil, not too much
Add the onions and cook for a while till they are a little soft
Add the onions and cook for a while till they are a little soft
Fry till the meat is fully cooked
Fry till the meat is fully cooked
Drain the fat off, rest the pan on something so it collects on one side and then remove the cooled meat
Drain the fat off, rest the pan on something so it collects on one side and then remove the cooled meat
Add the chopped cilantro
Add the chopped cilantro

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.

Bulgur and Flour
Bulgur and Flour
Kneed the dough, add flour or water till it binds together nicely
Kneed the dough, add flour or water till it binds together nicely

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

Ready to start building
You’ll need a bowl of water to help you work the dough, I place a tray with a tea towel next to where I am working to place the köftes as I make them.

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.

Take a piece of dough that will fit into your hand
Take a piece of dough that will fit into your hand
Start working the dough so that it is consistent throughout
Start working the dough so that it is consistent throughout
Finally make it into a ball
Finally make it into a ball
Work the dough to make a container
Work the dough to make a container
It's a little tricky but practice makes perfect
It’s a little tricky but practice makes perfect
This is what it should look like, the walls should not be too thick otherwise the dough will not cook correctly. But the walls must be thick enough to support themselves and not fall apart.
This is what it should look like, the walls should not be too thick otherwise the dough will not cook correctly. But the walls must be thick enough to support themselves and not fall apart.
Fill it with the meat mixture
Fill it with the meat mixture
Leave a little space so you can close it up.
Leave a little space so you can close it up.
Now the fun, trying to close it up, put some water on your hands and slowly turn and use your thumb to work the opening. It will magically start to close up. Add a little water and 'patch up' any cracks.
Now the fun, trying to close it up, put some water on your hands and slowly turn and use your thumb to work the opening. It will magically start to close up. Add a little water and ‘patch up’ any cracks.
This is what it should look like
This is what it should look like
Place it on the tray with the tea towel and cover with another tea towel while you make the rest of them.
Place it on the tray with the tea towel and cover with another tea towel while you make the rest of them.
For this amount of ingredients I got 15 of them, your mileage will vary depending on whether you make small or large ones.
For this amount of ingredients I got 15 of them, your mileage will vary depending on whether you make small or large ones.

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.

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.

Small pan two thirds full of oil on a medium to high heat
Small pan two thirds full of oil on a medium to high heat
Lower each köfte into the oil slowly to get the outer shell slightly cooked, this way it will not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Lower each köfte into the oil slowly to get the outer shell slightly cooked, this way it will not stick to the bottom of the pan.

All Done

Beautiful
Beautiful

Reheating

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).

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