Spellings, love abound for ground, seasoned lamb

I frequently serve as an unofficial ambassador for lamb. Most recently, a couple who have lived in the Rogue Valley for decades, surrounded by lush pastureland, wondered about how to incorporate lamb into their diets.

Find someone who raises it. Buy the whole animal for custom butchering by any number of businesses locally. Then uses it anywhere that a more typical dish would call for beef, as my family does. Of course, there are any number of recipes, such as moussaka, Provencal lamb and eggplant, Guinness stout stew and a few others posted to this blog over the past year that wouldn’t be nearly as worthwhile with a beef substitute.

Here’s another, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune. Call it kefta, kifta, kafta or kofta, this ground-meat preparation has a wide geographic reach from the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent, from the Balkan states to Central Asia. Each region’s varies in its size, shape, seasoning, serving style and side dishes, but lamb is a thread that ties these cuisines together.

It’s true that beef, pork, chicken and even seafood can play a role, but the higher fat content of lamb keeps the meat moist while it’s char-broiled or grilled. The mixture also can be formed into oblongs or patties and simmered in a sauce. Yet skewering them and forming a torpedo shape is the most straightforward way to enjoy this meat, either cradled in pita or served with a vegetable accompaniment.

Chilling the mixture for an hour before cooking helps to ensure that it holds its shape.

Tribune News Service photo


1 plump garlic clove

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 pound (about 8 large) carrots, peeled and trimmed

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Half a yellow onion, peeled

1/2 pound ground lamb

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Canola oil, as needed

2 tablespoons roasted, salted pistachios

Drop the garlic into a mortar. Sprinkle on the salt. Using pestle, mash to a paste.

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, cayenne and a scant 1/4 teaspoon of garlic mash.

Using second-largest holes on a box grater or small shredding disk of a food processor, shred the carrots. Heap into a bowl. Sprinkle on the 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Pour on lemon dressing. Toss. Chill for 1 hour or more.

For the kefta, grate the onion on largest holes of a box grater. Scoop up handfuls of onion and squeeze, discarding liquid. In a large bowl, mix onion with the lamb, mint, 1 tablespoon parsley and remaining garlic mash. Season with about 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Divide lamb mixture into 8 portions and shape each into a torpedo. If working ahead, chill.

Flick on range exhaust. Lightly oil a ridged griddle pan and set over high heat. Add kefta torpedoes and cook, turning to cook all sides, until charred outside and still a bit pink inside, for 6 to 8 minutes.

Scoop cold carrot salad onto each of 2 big or 4 small plates. Scatter on the pistachios. Top with kefta. Enjoy.

Makes 4 appetizer or 2 main-dish servings.

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