An easy, flavourful dish with a playful nickname!
My son recently gave me a fun gift: The Turkish Cookbook by Musa Dağdeviren, whom you may have seen on the popular Netflix show, Chef’s Table. I was excited to leaf through it and one of the first recipes that caught my eye was – I kid you not – ‘Ladies’ Thighs Meatballs’ (Kadinbudu köfte in Turkish). How could I resist? Kofte (also called kofta) is a name applied to a broad assortment of meatball-type dishes found among the cuisines across a vast swath of the world including the middle East, Mediterranean, Indian subcontinent, South Caucasus, Balkans, and central Asia. The “ladies’ thighs” version gets its name from the meatballs’ flattened, oval shape. I chose to bake my meatballs instead of frying for an easier, healthier version and was very happy with how they turned out. We tucked them in pitas with all sorts of toppings the first day, then reheated the remaining meatballs and crumbled them over salad made from the leftover toppings on day two – a great gluten-free option! I’ll be making this dish again and again as it was so easy, flavourful and satisfying. Because the meatballs are delicious warm or at room temperature, it will be a perfect summer picnic food.
- 1 1/2 pounds (700 g) ground lamb, beef or a combination*
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 1/4 cups (310 mL) cooked, cooled white rice (I used basmati)
- 1 cup (250 mL) finely minced shallot or red onion
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) each salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) each chopped fresh dill and parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground allspice
* ground chicken or turkey would work well also; add 1 tbsp / 15 mL of olive oil if using
- 6 pita or other flatbread
- Lettuce leaves
- Pickled turnip slices
- Sliced cucumbers
- Sprigs of fresh dill
- Sliced tomatoes
- Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
- Prepare the meatballs by putting all the ingredients into a large bowl. Use your very clean hands to knead the mixture together until well blended, breaking up any clumps of meat or rice with your fingers.
- Shape the meat mixture into about 15 evenly sized balls, placing them on the prepared baking sheet as you work so you can gauge their size.
- Once the meat has been divided, gently flatten each meatball into an oval shape about 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick, leaving about 1/3 inch (1 cm) between each meatball on the tray.
- At this point the tray of uncooked meatballs can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before cooking.
- When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400F. Once oven is hot, remove plastic wrap and bake meatballs for 25 – 30 minutes (if using a meat thermometer, the finished internal temperature should be 165F).
- Set out accompaniments as listed above so people can create their own sandwiches (or bowls) as soon as the meatballs are cooked.
- Remove the tray from the oven and transfer the cooked meatballs to a paper towel-lined platter.
- Our favourite assembly method was to spread the pita with tzatziki then place lettuce, pickled turnip, tomatoes and dill on one side. Lay two meatballs on top, place cucumber on top of the meatballs and fold over before devouring.