Lamb Koftas with Muhammara and Tabbouleh

September 22, 2009

Lamb Koftas

These koftas have saved me on more than one occasion – the kind of occasion where my boyfriend casually mentions that 6 people are coming over for a feed in half an hour and won’t it be OK if we just buy some sausages? I can never just buy some sausages. These koftas take ten minutes to prep and you can vary the spices so people don’t notice they’ve had them two last minute dinners running (also great on the BBQ). My basic recipe is this: 500g lamb mince, 1/2 red onion (softened in olive oil), 1 fat clove garlic (crushed and and added to onions for last 30 seconds), 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 2 teaspoons ground coriander,* 1-2 red chillies (chopped) and seasoning; just mix everything together well with your hands, mould around skewers then grill. I vary them by adding chopped herbs like mint, parsley or coriander; spices like fennel, cardamom, ground cloves, cinnamon or nutmeg and some lemon or orange zest. The list goes on. Chuck it in and see what happens I say.

I usually serve them up in flatbreads with a tzatziki style sauce but the sight of a few red peppers threatening to wither and a bag of walnuts led me onto muhammara sauce; a thick slurry of pulsed nuts, smoky roasted sweet pepper, pomegranate molasses and breadcrumbs. The only slightly time consuming bit of making this sauce is roasting the peppers so I speed things up by just sitting them directly on the gas flame – just remember to turn them every so often and don’t be alarmed by the spitting and crackling. Also make sure to use something like tongs to pick them up, they will be super hot. My muhammara always comes out paler than others I’ve seen, which I think might be down to the traditional inclusion of aleppo pepper in the recipe; I just used two red chillies from my balcony…

For a bit of substance I also made a tabbouleh: parsley (about 80g as it should be the main ingredient), cooked bulgur wheat (about 50g, although I used barley cous cous this time), 6 chopped cherry tomatoes, 4 sliced spring onions (green parts only), a small handful of mint leaves, a crushed garlic clove, lemon juice, 4 tablespoons olive oil and seasoning. It was delicious but we ended up chucking the whole lot in flatbreads anyway for some carb on carb action. Sometimes it just has to be done.


8 red peppers – roast them until the skins are blackened then place in a bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave for 10 minutes. The skins should now be easy to remove. Chop roughly, discarding the seeds.

4 tbsp olive oil
70g walnuts
2 tablespoons hot pepper paste (available from Middle Eastern shops) or 2 red chillies, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted until fragrant in a dry pan and then ground to paste using a grinder or pestle and mortar
50-g white breadcrumbs blended to a paste with about 1 tbsp cold water
2-4 tbsp pomegranate molasses (to taste)
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper

Put the peppers, walnuts, breadcrumb paste, chillies, cumin, pomegranate molasses and garlic in a blender and blend to a paste. Remove from the blender and mix in the olive oil then taste and add seasoning.

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  • Reply Niamh September 22, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Lovely post, Helen. I love koftas, great for supper! Nice recipe for the muhammara too.

  • Reply Helen Yuet Ling Pang September 22, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Impressed! Your friends must get so excited to receive an invite from you to eat at your home! I’ll show this to G so that he can replicate, minus the koftas sadly…

  • Reply Anh September 22, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    What a great recipe!

  • Reply Rob September 22, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Nice post. I’ve never made muhammara before so bookmarking this one.

    Do you make your own flatbreads too? I’ve got a bit addicted to homemade flatbreads after making them at They’re dead easy to do of you give yourself an hour’s rising time.

  • Reply Peter G September 22, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    I’ll take this over sausages anyday Helen! Thank you fro sharing it with us and for introducing me to Muhammara…i love the pomegranate used in it!

  • Reply Ollie September 22, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Fantastic – this one looks amazing. It’s properly impressive that you can rustle up something like that at the drop of a hat. I’d never come across muhammara before: looks delicious.

  • Reply Gourmet Chick September 22, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    You have certainly got your moneys worth out of your bbq Helen – late September and still going strong – very jealous

  • Reply ginandcrumpets September 22, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    ‘Chuck it in and see what happens’ is going to be stitched into a sampler to hang in my kitchen. Lovely looking koftas. So hungry now.

  • Reply Dan September 22, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Those Lamb Koftas look cracking. I’ve made something similiar as meatballs, but never even considered wrapping the mix round skewers and serving them as Koftas instead. I am inspired.

  • Reply LexEat! September 22, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Great post Helen – I agree, you can never “just do sausages” – imagine the shame!

  • Reply Nora September 22, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Dear God, what a spectacular combo. I discovered muhummara a little while ago and found it to be yummy, but never thought of combining it with koftas. Yum yum yum.

  • Reply Martin September 22, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Those look incredible, the kebabs in particular. I need to buy a huge bag of chili peppers from somewhere – my poor plant is stripped bare and buying them in lots of 4 from Sainsbury’s makes my skin crawl!

  • Reply susan from food blogga September 23, 2009 at 12:03 am

    I made some lamb koftas over the summer and really enjoyed them. Thanks for the delicious reminder that I should make them again!

  • Reply eatlivetravelwrite September 23, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Simply beautiful and I bet absolutely delectable too!!

  • Reply Lizzie September 23, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Great pictures.

    When I had tabbouleh in Abu Dhabi (there is a big Lebanese population) I was quite surprised that there was barely any bulgar wheat in it. I’ve never heard of muhammara either – Oh, I need to invest in a food processor!

  • Helen
    Reply Helen September 23, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Niamh – Thanks. The kofta never lets you down.
    Helen – Excellent! Maybe you can try it with the koftas when G goes out…
    Anh – Thank you 🙂
    Rob – Yeah I do sometimes – all depends on how much time I have really. If it’s a last minute thing then I tend to get something in from Persepolis as Sally has a really interesting range of breads. Can’t beat homemade though 🙂
    Peter G – It really is interesting. I want to try it with the aleppo pepper for more authenticity.
    Ollie – aww, thanks!
    Gourmet Chick – Well, I did these ones on the grill but I reckon you could still BBQ and don’t forget the winter BBQ! Always a good laugh, providing you wrap up, obviously.
    Gin and Crumpets – you must twitpic it once finished. In fact, start making a batch and we can flog them on the blogs.
    Dan – ooh how lovely to have inspired you!
    LexEat – Oh, the shame! 😉
    Nora – It really makes a nice change.
    Martin – It really winds me up how they can charge you a quid for three chillies in a plastic bag. Get yourself to an ethnic food shop, you could get a massive paper bag full for that money.
    Susan – Thanks. Yes not just one for summer. I make them in winter too and grill them.
    eatlivetravelwrite – you are very kind, thank you.
    Lizzie – Yeah, could be a bit of a nightmare making it in a pestle and mortar!

  • Reply Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen September 23, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    This is an incredibly great quick meal! I love it, Helen!

  • Reply Andrew Webb September 27, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    What! No ‘double stick’ technique!

  • Helen
    Reply Helen September 28, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Andrew – Can you imagine how I cursed myself when I came to turn them?! I really did.

  • Reply Jan September 28, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Your koftas look divine. At the start of summer I get a load of these prepared and pop them in the freezer, then you’re only a ‘defrost’ away from a BBQ. Plus the flavours go on developing.

    By the way, try some fresh or dried mint in them – gorgeous 🙂

  • Reply Peter September 29, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Helen, I’ve made a Turkish version (Simit Kebab) and it too included bulgur in the mix…WOW! I loved the nutty taste and in fact, the meat was very moist and of course, delish!

  • Reply Howitzer July 5, 2010 at 5:04 am

    Would the meat be better if marinated? I love the recipe very difficult to find good lamb meat though. Any alternative sauce for this?

  • Helen
    Reply Helen September 11, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Howitzer – If you mean could you mix the spices and then leave the spice mix in the meat for a while then yes. You could make the mix, form it into skewers and leave it overnight, which would improve the flavour. Fro an alternative sauce, try mixing a 500g tub greek yoghurt with the juice of a lemon, half a finely chopped, de-seeded cucumber, a small clove of crushed garlic, salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar.

    Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. I somehow missed your comment before.

  • Reply Rebecca February 4, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Just had to write and say how delicious these were. We made them for supper last night and everyone loved them. I added a tsp of cinnamon and a spot of orange zest to the meat and it worked beautifully. We had also cycled to Café East for lunch (bit of an all-round gourmet day) and thought it was great (especially the amazing roll-up starters)…. So thank you for all that inspiration… Smokey Jerky on the Old Kent Road is next on the agenda.

  • Helen
    Reply Helen February 4, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Rebecca- Really glad you enjoyed them! Love, love, love Cafe East. have to say, Smokey Jerkey is in New Cross

  • Reply Josephine June 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Hi Helen, I’m planning to make these koftas when a couple of friends come round next week. How many does your resipe serve and can I prepare the koftas in advance, leaving the grilling to the last minute?
    Thanks in advance,

    • Helen
      Reply Helen June 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      Hiya, this will make 6 koftas. it depends what you are serving them with – if you have sides then will be enough. I would probably make double for 4 people though. Yes prep koftas in advance and fridge them – they will be better in fact. h

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