A funny thing about lamb: it is best paired with things that, by rights, should make for a disgusting combination. Take lamb + mint jelly, for example: props to whoever thought up that improbable combination, which is now a classic flavor pairing in the vein of apple pie + cheese (or at least in New England, where I was raised, where the saying went: “apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze”).
Yogurt is another strange-sounding combination with lamb – and yet, I find it totally irresistable. Particularly when the yogurt is in the form of tzatziki (greek) or mast-o-khiar (persian) – a fresh, tangy, garlicky dip/spread/sauce that, quite honestly, I could eat with a spoon, all by itself, for days.
You have to be careful with this stuff. Its garlicky goodness has a way of disappearing with itinerant pita bread, or traipsing off alongside other proteins, like a simple grilled fish or chicken. But I like it best paired with lamb – and these kofte are light and tender, owing to a substantial amount of bulghur wheat in the mix. It’s a trick of one of my perennial favorites, Mark Bittman
, who deftly uses grains to reduce the amount of meat we eat, without sacrificing flavor. The result is a meal that is, improbably, simultaneously rich AND light – almost as unlikely as the combination of lamb and yogurt in the first place!
serves 4, as a side
1 cup greek yogurt*
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and shredded, and squeezed to release all excess water
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp cane vinegar
1 tsp salt (and more to taste)
black pepper to taste
mix the ingredients, and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
* to make 1 cup of greek yogurt, line a sieve with cheesecloth, add 2 cups of plain low-fat yogurt, put the sieve in a shallow dish (to collect the liquid) and let sit in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours, emptying the liquid occasionally. Voilà!
Kofte (adapted from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything)
1/2 lb ground lamb (Loshusan in Barbican usually carries local ground lamb)
1 small onion, diced fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cooked bulghur
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp cumin
Mix ingredients together, and form into small patties.
Pan fry over medium-high heat in a little olive oil for about 15 – 20 mins, flipping about halfway through, until nicely browned on both sides, and cooked to desired doneness. Serve with tzatziki, above.