Christopher Does Kafta

July 10, 2011



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Christopher has made kafta a few times, and in different kitchens. The magical outcome is no happy accident. (Though I never doubted him.) I am impressed though, because ‘exotic’ cuisines evade me: my curries are a tad flat, my sushi rolls aren’t tight and I can’t get comfortable with fish sauce to cook Thai–although that doesn’t stop me from eating it. But Christopher rolled up his sleeves one afternoon and dug into a heap of ground lamb. When he was finished massaging every last grain of spice into the mixture, he turned them into dainty patties and set them aside for a while.

In the meantime, he caught this fish:


He caught several fish last weekend, so I know his casting isn’t a fluke either.

I married up.

Come dinner, I felt like I had a first class ticket to an old lady’s house in Tripoli. No jet lag. I was wrong to think that the magical combination of Middle Eastern spices could only be had in some far away place–or at a restaurant owned by someone from a far away place. As it turns out, Christopher substitutes fine for a Lebanese grandmother.


I watched him make these on July 4th. It looks pretty simple, and requires only things my parent’s already had in their spice rack. The only critical component was leaving enough time for the spices to enliven the lamb. He made the meatballs after lunch, and let them sit until dinner. On the grill, they get crispy outsides, but hold up fine, even without breadcrumbs or yolks. We served these with a simple yogurt, cucumber and dill sauce.  Some call it tzatziki.

Lamb Kafta

4 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus a pinch

1 pound ground lamb

3 tablespoons grated onion

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil, for brushing the grill


Dice the garlic as finely as possible, then rub in sea salt to form a paste, using the flat-side of a knife.

Add the spices, onion, garlic and parsley to a large bowl and mix completely.

Add the ground lamb to the spices and mix until fully blended.

Roll into 1/2″ patties and refrigerate, at least 3 hours.

Grill for 3-4 minutes per side.

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