When it comes to meatballs, everyone thinks their own family’s recipe is the best. That’s because the meatball can be made in so many ways.
In America, we’re most familiar with the Italian and Swedish versions, but nearly every region of the world has some variation of a meatball. To name only a few, there are also Spain’s spicy albóndigas, South America’s skilpadjies, Japan’s tsukune, Poland’s pulpety, and the Mediterranean kofta.
Kofta varies by country (and can also be called kefta, köfte, keftedes, and so on). They can be made with lamb, beef, or even fish, such as in Bangladesh. In this episode of Eating by Heart, Colombe Jacobsen shows how to make a classic lamb kofta with the traditional condiment: a simple tahini sauce.
What makes these meatballs undeniably Mediterranean is their seasoning. While the meatballs found atop spaghetti are spiced with oregano and garlic, this lamb kofta has mint and parsley. (Here’s how to chop those herbs quickly!) It also uses bold spices like cumin and Turkish paprika. These flavors are classic in the Mediterranean region.
The tahini sauce is a typical condiment in Mediterranean food. (You might recognize it as the pale, thin sauce found in pitas with shawarma or falafel.) It is made from ground sesame seeds, which are extraordinarily high in calcium. Like most seeds and nuts, they are also full of heart-healthy fats and plant-based protein.
To round out the meal, consider some warm whole-wheat pita bread and a classic Middle Eastern side dish like tomato-cucumber salad. This fresh side is diced tomato, cucumber, and onion tossed with parsley, mint, olive oil, and lemon juice, so the seasonings complement the lamb kofta perfectly. (Here’s the trick to dicing the tomato and how to slice an onion without crying!)