Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mom’s “Koofteh” (aka Modified Tabrizi Meatballs)

This entry was orginally posted August 31, 2011.  I am re-posting it today in honor of my husband's birthday since he specifically requested Koofteh for dinner :-)  I hope you get a chance to make these delicious Azeri meatballs.  You know what I'll be working on this evening!

I am so excited to be able to share this recipe with you. It was originally from my grandmother, passed down to my mother and now to me. And in the process, with each generation, it has undergone some let’s say…modification to make it more era appropriate. You see, this delicious recipe originated in the city of Tabriz, capital of the East Azerbaijan province of Iran.

Listening to stories my mother and grandmother tell, the creation of the original koofteh was an extremely elaborate production which would start with the forceful beating of pieces of lamb or beef with a meat cleaver for hours against marble boards (I have to assume this proved highly therapeutic within a culture and time period where “emotional problems” were belittled and perceived as a sign of weakness). This metamorphosed, fine meat was combined with hundreds of ingredients, formed into bowling ball sized meatballs, and then stuffed with all kinds of exciting goodies like cooked eggs, sautéed onions, apricots, plums and walnuts. Due to the extreme size of the koofteh, they could not be lifted by hand, and so large cloths were used to lift and lower them into the pot of boiling water (crazy I know). Azeri women would slave away from sunrise to sunset with their wooden stirring spoons tending to their precious creation. And when the koofteh were ready to be served, it was not unlike a wedding cake cutting ceremony (there was no ceremony music but in my mind there is Persian dance music playing as a DJ announces “koofteh cutting time” on his mic and the crowd goes wild). The family would gather around the table while each koofteh was sliced and everyone beheld the divine center of edible surprises and shared in its heavenly nourishment.

Kooftehs cooking together side by side 
That's a very heartwarming preparation story, but today, who has time (or the arm strength) to bang lamb for hours, purchase tons of spices, then stuff a meatball with items you have to first cook, and then find some sort of “food crane” to lower your meatballs that are too heavy to pick up into a pot? And even if you did have time, would you want to? Hopefully, your answer is no (and if it’s yes, you may want to try a different blog)…..

This recipe has been amended for the times. It’s for people looking for tasty, healthy and simple. And the abbreviated version still manages to produce the most delicious aroma that will fill your home and have your loved ones asking, “MMMMMMMM, is someone making koofteh?”  Read on for the recipe :-)


1.5 lbs ground beef (I use Laura’s 96% lean ground round but I am sure it’s tastier with the 92%) http://www.laurasleanbeef.com/products/ground-beef
¾ cup uncooked white rice (I recommend jasmine or basmati but any rice should do)
1 “bunch” fresh tarragon chopped (it’s totally fine to use dry herbs if you don’t feel like hitting up the grocery store but the fresh ones always taste more amazing)
1 “bunch” fresh basil chopped
3-4 tablespoons dried savory (for the Persians out there Marzeh...if you don't have savory, you can substitute rosemary or thyme or just leave it out if you'd like)
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium onions chopped
2 tablespoons turmeric
1 tablespoon olive oil (or less depending on how intensely you are watching your weight)
Salt and pepper to taste


Sautee chopped onions in olive oil until golden. Add water into pot (I am not being specific about the amount because it depends on how large your pot is. What I do know is it must be enough water to cover ¾ of your softball sized meatballs once they are all in the pot). Add salt, pepper and 1 tbsp turmeric and let the contents come to a boil.

In a bowl, mix the ground beef, rice, chopped herbs, 1 tbsp turmeric, salt, pepper and ¼ cup water (which will facilitate in forming the koofteh). Knead these ingredients well with your hand and then make into softball or tennis sized meatballs. Next, drop these into the boiling water/sautéed onion mixture. Add tomato paste to the water and bring the heat down to medium, COVER and allow to cook for about 45 minutes to an hour. You will know the koofteh are done when most of the water is absorbed (it turns into a thickened stew) and the rice can be seen sticking out of the koofteh. They look very cute! 

This recipe makes 6 softball sized meatballs. Either serve alone dressed with fresh basil on top or with a side of whole wheat pita. The following day, this is even more delicious as a pita sandwich with fresh basil or any fresh herb of your liking on top.

PS-feel free to throw in some fingerling potatoes or any baby potatoes for that matter into the pot with your koofteh- they will require about 45 minutes to cook as well.  They are delicious with the koofteh!

Garnish your koofteh with some fresh basil and serve with a glass of red wine 

Enjoy, Nousheh-Jaan, Bon-Appétit! And Thanks Mom! :-)


Sarah said...

Wow! I know what I'm going to (attempt to) make this weekend! Yummmm... Thanks for the great recipe and entertaining writing!


Solmaz Amirnazmi said...

You are welcome! Hope you liked them :-D !

rushessays said...

The best things about these recipes are the spices which are being used to make them at professional level. Only the professional cooks are able to give the natural taste of every ingredient.