Before there were meat grinders, Turkish cooks would finely chop meat into tiny cubes and use their hands (or a mortar and pestle), to massage and mash meat with spices, herbs, and rice, or another starch (bulgur wheat | lentil | bread crumbs), making a sticky meat paste. Then they’d form the meat into long cigar-shaped cylinders and Skewers them onto a stick. This is köfte, a meatball-like kebab.
How to Make Turkish Lamb Köfte with Stout:
There are hundreds of variations of köfte throughout the Middle East. Using Turkish inspired spices, the resulting flavors, meld together with each bite of this sausage without casing dish. This Köfte recipe combines lamb with Stout, cumin, parsley, and sumac (a deep red, tangy berry) along with urfa or allepo chili to create a delicious main course. The roast | coffee | espresso | earthy flavors found in most stout beer styles helps give this version a unique Cooking with Beer | Beer Cuisine twist.
Depending on how you chose to season this lamb recipe, the type of stout used will change the final flavor. If you use an Irish Dry Stout, Russian Imperial Stout, Coffee or other infused Stout, to an extra milky, full of un-fermented lactose Milk Stout | Sweet Stout. (which could add balance if using more chili heat). To add extra elements when choosing the beer to cook with, outside of the stout beer style, each brewery adds their own take on the type of stout. New flavor combinations are seemingly available. Your ultimate stout beer selection will change the final flavors of your köfte. This is one of the adventurous decisions a Beer Chef is faced with when cooking with stout beer.
In my research, köfte is different than an Italian Meatball and Greek Homemade Gyro Meat, yet uses a unique trick, that helped me formulate the later recipe. Not just grinding the meat, but mixing it with salt, helps breakdown some of the muscle, making the protein sticky or denaturing the protein so that it holds together. This culinary trick also gives the köfte texture, making it different than an American style meatloaf. Similar ingredients, different culinary techniques, and seasonings.
Some recipes use starches, like bread crumbs or bulgur, that act much like a panade when mixed with a liquid. As this technique creates a very different texture, more in line with meatloaf or meatball, I steered away from this style of köfte. As lamb has more fat than poultry, the resulting kebabs | patties are juicy, moist, and full of rich flavor. In my alternative recipe for köfte, I use the panade technique to make a Chicken & Turkey Köfte with IPA, to prevent the poultry from being dry.
Place a box grater in the center of a medium-sized bowl. Grate the red onion on the large grate side, until you have about 1/4 cup. Next, grate the garlic on a microplane (or finely mince with a knife). Add the chopped parsley, bread crumbs (or nut meal for a different texture/flavor), tomato paste, sumac, urfa chili, cumin, pepper, paprika and beer. Using a spatula, mix together well, allowing the ingredients to dissolve and infuse evenly into the meat.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the ground meat. Add the onion spice mixture and, using a paddle attachment, beat the ingredients together on medium speed for 2 – 3 minutes. This method is the trick to differentiating köfte from a standard meatball. When mixed thoroughly, the proteins become sticker, denaturing them, allowing the ground meat to stick to itself better and hold onto a skewer more easily.
Divide the meat mixture into six equal portions. Have a bowl of cold water nearby. Dip your hands in the water; this will help prevent the ground meat from sticking to your hands. Take a portion of the meat and gently mold it into a log shape. Skewer it down the center and place onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil (this disposable layer keeps the sheet tray free of raw meat, leaving a clean surface for the grilled köfte after they’re cooked). Repeat with the remaining meat, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight to marry the flavors.
Grill: Preheat a gas grill set to medium-high heat for 15 minutes. With charcoal, make a good pile of coals that are red hot and lightly coated with white ash. Place the köfte skewers on a clean and lightly oiled grill grate and cook for 3 – 4 minutes a side. The internal temperature should be at least 155°F | 68°C.
Stove Top:Stove Top: Using a cast iron skillet or sauté pan placed over medium-high heat, add a few tablespoons of oil (olive or vegetable) and lay the köfte in the pan, avoiding overcrowding. Cook for 4 minutes on the first side, flip and cook another 3–4 minutes until the internal temperature reaches at least 155°F | 68°C.
Serve as a sandwich or a wrap by spreading a teaspoon of Lebanese Garlic Sauce, a good scoop of Hoppy Tabbouleh, a köfte and a few spoonfuls of its accompanying sauce on a warm *pita, naan or lavash bread. Add some roasted or fried potato cubes, a sprinkle of thinly sliced red onion, chopped parsley and a few sesame seeds. Serve with hot sauce. Or as a main course, make a mound of Hoppy Tabbouleh on a plate, top it with the köfte, its sauce, slices of red onion and Tangerine IPA Yogurt Sauce or Pomegranate Rose Stout Yogurt Sauce. Garnish with a sprig of mint.