Lamb koftas three ways

Lamb koftas or kebabs invariably get an outing during barbecue season. They go well with a range of sauces and sides: houmous, aubergine dip, tsatsiki, tabouleh and Greek salad. We’ll often have a spanakopita and skewered vegetables as well, to keep the vegetarians happy. Our go-to lamb kofta recipe – the first one below – comes from Rena Salaman’s trusty book, The Cooking of Greece and Turkey (1987), which is also the source of Greek Walnut Cake. My more recent efforts in repertoire expansion have drawn me to some Ottolenghi recipes, two of which, from Simple (2018) went down a treat during Lockdown 1 and are reproduced for you here. They’re both designed to be cooked in the kitchen – fried in a pan or baked in the oven respectively – but can easily be adapted for outdoor grilling.

Minced lamb and cracked wheat kebabs

Makes about 12


50g bulgur wheat (cracked wheat)
750g minced lamb
1 large onion, grated coarsely
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
25g pine kernels, chopped coarsely
Salt and black pepper


Rinse the cracked wheat and soak it in hot water for 30 minutes. Strain it well, squeezing the water out by hand. Mix it with the remaining ingredients by hand until properly incorporated. Make elongated flat burgers and grill them about 4 minutes on either side.

Lamb koftas with Greek salad and tsatsiki

Lamb and pistachio patties with sumac yoghurt sauce

Makes about 20 


60g pistachio kernels
25g rocket leaves
1 onion, quartered (150g)
1 large garlic clove, peeled
500g lamb mince
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper

Sumac yoghurt sauce
250g Greek-style yoghurt
1 tbsp sumac
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice


Mix together all the ingredients for the sumac yoghurt sauce and keep in the fridge until needed.

To make the patties, put the pistachios into the small bowl of a food processor. Blitz for a few seconds, to roughly chop, then transfer to a bowl. Add the rocket to the processor, blitz to roughly chop, then add to the bowl of pistachios. Continue with the onion and garlic, to form a smooth paste, and add to the bowl. Add the lamb, 1 tbsp oil, ¾ tsp salt and a good grind of pepper. Mix well to combine, then, with wet hands, shape the mix into about 20 patties. They should each be about 5cm wide, 2cm thick and weigh about 40g. [If you’re planning to barbecue rather than fry them, I advise making fewer, larger patties because it’s quite fiddly to turn so many small ones over an open grill.] If frying, allow about 7 minutes to cook the small patties through; bigger ones will take a bit longer on the barbecue.

Lamb and feta meatballs

The pomegranate molasses are a great addition, but if you don’t have any, the dish will work fine without. 

Serves 6 as a starter or snack


500g minced lamb
2 tbsp picked thyme leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 slice white bread, blitzed
Salt and black pepper
2 tsp pomegranate molasses, plus 1 tbsp extra to serve (optional)

Heat the oven to 200C. Put all the ingredients apart from the oil and pomegranate molasses in a large bowl, add three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper, and mix with your hands to combine. Still using your hands, divide the meatball mix into 18 roughly 35g portions and form each into 4cm-wide balls.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high flame, then fry the meatballs (cook them in batches, if need be), for five to six minutes in total, gently turning them throughout, until golden brown all over. Transfer the meatballs to an oven tray lined with baking paper, drizzle pomegranate molasses over the top, if using, and bake for five minutes, to cook through.

Serve hot, with a final tablespoon of pomegranate molasses spooned on top.

Again, if you want to cook these on the barbecue, shape your meat mixture into fewer, bigger and flatter meatballs. You can brush them with pomegranate molasses while they’re on the barbecue and drizzle over a bit more before serving – or not.

Clockwise from top: tomato, chickpea & harissa salad; couscous, red onions, parsley & pine kernels; lamb & feta meatballs; sumac yoghurt sauce

Published by motherrach

Alongside this blog, which records tried and tested family favourites, I’m documenting on Instagram (mother_rach_cooks) my efforts in repertoire expansion.

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