Persian Stuffed Meatballs: Koofteh Tabrizi

You might remember at least two types of meatballs I have described here: One in an older post for cabbage mixed rice , where we make very small meatballs, and the other one in a dish I called Koofteh  and served with vegetables.

Today I want to share with you a very popular dish called Koofteh Tabrizi کوفته تبریزی – a rich yet tender meatball served in savoury thick tomato broth.  As the name suggests the dish is a speciality of the city of Tabriz also known for its sophisticated and extremely delicious cuisine. Like the other two meatballs, the basis of Koofteh Tabrizi is a mix of ground meat, grated onions, chickpea flour, turmeric and pepper-salt.  However, Koofteh Tabrizi is distinct in its taste as it is mixed with cooked rice and split peas as well as with aromatic fresh herbs; it is also different from other types of meatballs with regard to its fairly large size (here we go with Tennis ball size in order to better manage and make sure it will hold throughout the cooking process).

Koofteh Tabrizi, too, is made in a number of different ways in terms of size, stuffing and even main ingredients. My recipe here has been inspired by Family Spice – a wonderful resource for all foods Iranian and otherwise! I have, however, made some changes to the ingredients to suite my family’s taste (namely adding garlic and changing the stuffing from raisin to prune) as well as to the slightly modifying the method of preparation and cooking.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1/2 kilo lean ground meat
  • 2 cups fresh tarragon, parsley, mint and green onions in equal parts. You could also use a combination of fresh and dried herbs if not all varieties is available fresh.
  • 1 medium size onion, grated and squeezed to remove excess juice
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup chick-pea flour
  • 3/4 cup cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup cooked yellow split-peas
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 cup (or about 10 large) pitted prune (for stuffing)
  • Salt and pepper as required

You would also need the following in order to make tomato broth

  • 1 medium size onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3 cups of (ideally) homemade chicken or meat broth
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • Salt and pepper as needed

Method:

Clean, wash and dry your herbs; then chop them finely and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl place the meat, grated onions and your spices including salt, pepper and turmeric. Mix and massage thoroughly. Add in chick pea flour, cooked rice, and cooked split peas. Continue to massage slowly but surely until all are well mixed. Finally add in the chopped herbs and massage more to get a homogeneous big bowl of meat.

Divide the big mixed meatball into at least eight smaller round balls.

Using your finger, press a hole into the center of each meatball and place one prune at its centre.

Roll the meat back to a meatball. You would be doing this eight times for eight meatballs. Set them aside and get busy with your broth.

For Broth

In a large pan, heat the oil and sauté your chopped onions over medium heat until transparent. Add turmeric, salt and pepper and sauté one more minute. Stir in 2 tbsp. tomato paste. Now, add the broth and stir to mix well. Bring the tomato broth to boil.

Place your stuffed meatballs in to the tomato broth one by one. Cover and cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Depending on the size of the pot you are using, the meatballs may or may not be fully covered in the soup. To ensure even cooking, carefully turn over the meatballs half way through cooking.

Serve hot as lunch or dinner with flat bread, plenty of raw herbs (sabzi khordan), and torshi or salad if you fancy some. Enjoy!



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