Monday, 7 April 2008

Kofta Mishmisheya: Iraqi meatballs in apricot sauce

I had some dried apricots left from my trip to Turkey last summer, and, having managed to acquire some more from Tehran Shop, decided to use up the last of my little stash of these divine little treats. I thought I remembered a Georgian (was it?) dish in Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, which was one of my very first ME cookbook acquisitions. However, in all the hundreds of recipes, I didn't find the one I was trying to recall (perhaps it is in Najmieh khanom's Silk Road Cooking instead?). Anyway, I found this easy-looking recipe in The Book of Jewish Food, Claudia's other major work of a lifetime (which I hope you will give in and just buy, already (g); it is absolutely the best world cookbook, even for gentiles like me, and one I would love to see emulated by authorities of other cuisines).

Anyway, although this is a Jewish recipe, I used beef/pork mince, Turkish apricots and Iranian ground dried limes, thereby disrespecting all traditions in equal measure, I'm afraid. However, since it is all in the pursuit of good taste, I hope I'll be forgiven.

As it was my first time to make this dish, I made it pretty much to specification. I did feel that the the spicing was a little subtle for me (I like big, bold flavours, after all), and next time I'll probably double the dried lime, and maybe even add some bread soaked in water and squeezed out, as I really like what happens to meatballs when you do this (probably a slice and a half of bread for this much meat). Incidentally, you can check the spicing of your meatballs by frying a little taste up before you commit to rolling your balls. I know on good authority that professional chefs do this all the time. I also upped the lemon juice (but I'm like that (g)).

All in all this was very easy and a nice change from the show-off Middle Eastern stuff I usually cook (g).

As an aside, I realize all my Iraqi recipes are Jewish, so to balance things up a bit, I'm thinking of buying this title. (I know, I know, I'm not supposed to be buying more cookbooks, but the one I've had on order since before Christmas is out of print. Surely I can replace it with this one until that title is reprinted, no? (g). I'm incorrigible, I know...)

Kofta mishmisheya

Serves 4

1 large onion, chopped
3-4 tbsp oil
750 g minced lamb [S: or other meat]
1-2 tbsp ground dried lime [if grinding your own, use the pale dried limes, or limu, that you can get in Middle Eastern/Persian stores]
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
salt and pepper
3-4 tbsp tomato paste
200 g dried apricots, soaked in water for 1/2 hour [S: Make sure these are not sweetened ones or your sauce will be more of a jam (g)]
3-4 tbsp currants or raisins [S: I used sultanas, same difference]
juice of 1 or 1 1/2 lemons or to taste
1 tsp sugar [S: I didn't think it needed it; you judge for yourself]

In a large frying pan, fry the onion in oil till golden. With your hands, work the meat into a paste with the dried lime, cloves, allspice, 1 tsp of salt and pepper and roll into walnut-sized balls. Add them to the pan and cook, turning them to brown them all over. [S: Depending on the amount of fat in the meat, you may want to drain some off at this point.] Stir in the tomato paste, add the drained apricots [S: I sliced them first] and the currants or raisins and cover with water [S: I used the water the apricots soaked in]. Simmer for about 25 minutes. Add lemon juice and sugar and a little salt and pepper and simmer for another 20 minutes.


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