Claudia Roden’s kofte kebabs

I know I do harp on a bit about cutting down the amount of meat we eat. And yet, while I love vegetarian food, I could never give up meat completely. My blog is called Bangers & Mash for a reason. Plus, it would mean giving up dishes like this. And that’s simply not happening.

This is one of my favourite recipes from one of my favourite cookery writers, Claudia Roden. I met her briefly following a talk she gave at the Bath Literary Festival a few years back when she signed my copy of Arabesque, from which this recipe comes. I talked to her briefly about my blog and she wished me lots of luck with it, although it was clear the concept of blogging was a bit of a mystery to her. And I successfully managed to refrain from telling her how beautiful I think she is. Because she is. But that might have come across just a little too creepy.

I was extremely privileged to interview Claudia Roden a year or so later when I was helping out with publicity for Food Blogger Connect where she was to give a talk on her life researching food. Again she seemed a little bewildered at the prospect of talking to bloggers and social media junkies, concepts she admitted she knew next to nothing about, other than that her daughter “was into them”. I would have loved to have talked to her for hours and hours about her passion for sharing food and food stories, but just to have five minutes or so with her was something very special.


This is a beautifully simple dish; one of those that by using the best ingredients you can get your hands on and by taking a little care in the preparation, simple becomes something extraordinary.

Claudia tells us it is the mainstay of most Turkish kebab houses and normally appears extravagantly served in a large dish topped with a domed copper lid. You need to be fairly well organised as the preparation all happens quite quickly and at the last minute, so that it arrives at the table hot with the toasted pitta bread still crisp.

You could substitute the beef mince for lamb if you prefer, and perhaps finish by mixing some paprika into melted butter and drizzling this over the top instead of the olive oil and pine nuts. Your call.

Kofte kebabs with tomato sauce and yoghurt

Serves 4-6

For the tomato sauce

1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
750g tomatoes, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper
1 tsp sugar

2 pitta breads
750g minced beef
salt and pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
50g flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tsp sumac, plus a pinch more
500g natural yoghurt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pine nuts

To make the tomato sauce, start by frying the onion in the oil until soft. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a minute or so, before stirring in the chopped tomatoes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar, and cook gently over a medium heat until soft.

Cut open the pitta and toast until crisp. Break into small bite-size pieces.

For the kofte kebabs, place the minced beef in a bowl and add the salt and pepper, onion and parsley. Combine well with your hands and work it into a soft dough. Shape into sausage-shapes, around 2cm thick and 7cm long.

Place a sheet of foil on a baking sheet and smear lightly with oil. Arrange the kofte on the baking sheet and place under a pre-heated grill for around 8 minutes, turning once, until browned outside and slightly pink inside.

Arrange the toasted pitta across a large serving dish and sprinkle with a pinch of sumac. Pour over the hot tomato sauce. Beat the yoghurt with a fork, and pour over the tomato sauce.

Heat the olive oil and pine nuts in a pan and stir in a teaspoonful of sumac. Sprinkle it over the yoghurt and top with the kofte kebabs. Bring to the table and eat immediately.


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