Tuesday, May 27, 2008

sunday supper: kafta bi sanniyeh

I used to think that you couldn't make Kafta without a grill, but then I discovered Kafta bi Sanniyeh, also known as a Lebanese Lamb Pie. It's basically a lamb meatloaf, with potatoes ringing the edges. It could not be any easier, and it's the perfect solution for someone who loves them some Kafta, but lives in the city with no outdoor space. You do have to be prepared for some serious fattiness, though.

I think I patted my lamb loaf a bit too much, as looking at a couple of photos shows much more lumpiness. The lumpiness is probably a good idea since more raised edges presumably results in more browned bits, always a good thing.

Considering that I didn't have much of a recipe and was somewhat blindly adding ingredients without measuring anything, I was really happy with the result. I'm guessing this is something you can't really screw up. Next time I'd add more mint, perhaps. I even forgot to grease the pan, but the lamb was so fatty it didn't matter at all. It also seems like you should leave space around the edges of the meat to rest the potatoes in, but I didn't bother and it didn't matter. As the meat cooked, it shrank away from the sides, dropping the potatoes into the rendered lamb fat and roasting them perfectly. One recipe even called for parboiling the potatoes first, but I don't think that's necessary at all. Just cut them small and they will be perfect. I served the Kafta with another classic Lebanese dish - Mujadarrah, lentils and rice. Then I decided to use the rest of the parsley and mint from the Kafta in a Tabouleh, which turned out to be the perfect accompaniment for cutting the richness of the lamb. Those recipes will follow shortly, the Kafta recipe is after the jump:

2 lbs ground lamb
1 large white onion, cut into chunks
2 C fresh parsley
1/2 C fresh mint leaves
1/2 C bread crumbs
1 egg
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
8 baby potatoes

In a food processor, combine the onion, parsley, and mint and pulse until finely minced but not liquid. Add the mixture to the lamb with the bread crumbs, egg, spices, salt and pepper. Mix well, then store covered in the refridgerator for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to come together.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Turn out the meat mixture in to a large round casserole or pan. Pat the meat down to about 1 inch thickness all around. Halve the potatoes and lay around the edges of the pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, then lower to 250 for another 30-40 minutes until meat and potatoes are golden brown and cooked through.

[NOTE: If you are lucky enough to own a grill, you can use this recipe for Kafta Kebabs. Just leave out the bread crumbs and the egg, press the meat onto metal skewers, and grill away.]

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