Thursday, 25 April 2013

Turkish delights: Icli köfte

Food sampled during each of my travels have taught me something new. In Greece one of the lesson the local food taught me was that cinnamon is not just for apple pies - it also lends wonderful depth and earthy sweetness to meat, especially lamb. These icli köftes are a fine example of that.

Elsewhere in Middle East this Turkish treat is also known as kibbeh. It's a meatball encased in a shell made of bulghur and minced lamb and is one of my all time favourite street foods (meat wraped in meat - how could it not!) . I did not have bulghur, but I did have couscous so I took the liberty of using that instead. The guests at the Turkish night loved them and one of them - Tunisian himself - actually guaranteed that these would get me married in Middle East...!

makes 15 or 7 big ones


2,5 dl couscous
150 g minced lamb
1 onion, grated
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp tomato paste
1,5 tsp allspice


1 small onion
100 g minced lamb
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp clove
3/4 dl beef stock
2 tbps pine nuts
1,5 tbsp mint, finely chopped
1,5 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
salt, pepper

Cook couscous according to the instructions on the package. Steam until dry. Mix with the rest of the ingredients into a smooth paste. Season well and let rest in the fridge for an hour.
For the filling soften the onion in a little bit of oil. Add spices followed by lamb. Brown. Add stock and cook until the mixture has slightly damp, paste-like consistency. Add pine nuts and herbs. Let cool.

Divide the shell mixture into 3 and each portion into 5. Roll into a ball and against the palm of your hand, smooth into a disc. Add a few teaspoonfuls of filling in the middle and fold the sheet around it. Smooth over any cracks with a finger dipped in water. This seals the surface and helps keep the filling in.  Another method of filing the shells is rolling the filling mixture into little kebabs, forming an oblong ball out of the shell mixture and with a finger puncturing a hole in the middle of which into which the "kebab" is then inserted, smoothing over the ends of this cylinder to seal it.

Keep in the fridge for an hour or so until ready to fry. Heat some oil in a pan and fry in batches until golden brown - a couple of minutes should do. Mine got a bit too dark. That's what multitasking (a.k.a. drinking and cooking) does to you...

Drain on kitchen towel and serve. Naturally these are best served in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the alleyways around Istanbul Grand Bazaar... but the combination of Helsinki, fabulous friends and tzatziki isn't too bad either.

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