Lexington Koftesi

After visiting Turkey in 2001 and 2002, my wife and I decided to try to determine how to make one of our favorite Turkish foods: Tekirdag Koftesi (Kofte of Tekirdag). Although you see this Kofte everywhere in Tekirdag, the recipe isn't widely published and many people just get the spices premixed and packaged as "Kofte spices." Our home-guessed recipe isn't a perfect match, but it has the same type of flavor, and we think it is fairly competitive with the real thing.


The following makes about 6-8 healthy servings:

Too much fat in the ground beef will not yield the right texture -- Kofte should have a texture somewhat finer than the average hamburger. The correct amount of breadcrumbs seems to depend on the quantity of fat in the ground beef: too much breadcrumb yields drier, less juicy, Kofte.


Put the breadcrumbs into a food processor and run until the texture is nearly like flour. Chop the onion and parsely. Add the onion, parseley, basil, mint, oregano, and sugar into the food processor and run until the mixture is well mixed and has a consistent texure. Stop before making a homogenous paste; the various ingredients should still be visible as particles in the mixture.

On an approriate surface or in a large bowl, hand mix (knead) the uncooked ground beef, the whole contents of the egg, and the mixture from the food processor. Add salt and black pepper at this time... it shouldn't need much. Actually, if you've got a large enough food processor, you could try using that to mix everything: it might give a finer texture that would be even more like the real thing.

To form the Kofte, place a little olive oil in a small bowl so that you can wet your fingers easily. Roll small amounts of the mixture between your hands to form Kofte about 3"-4" long and 3/4" diameter. Once each Kofte is formed, dip your fingers in the oil and lightly coat the outside of the Kofte with oil to keep them from sticking to each other before cooking.

Cooking is best done using high heat on a grill. Kofte cook very quickly and taste best hot from the grill, so make only as much as you need and refridgerate the rest -- it is quick to make more as you need it. Refridgerated Kofte should not be kept for more than a day or so, but they also can be frozen for extended storage.


As decribed above, Kofte are best served immediately as they come off the grill. Trying to keep them warm or overcooking quickly makes them dry out. Real Tekirdag Koftesi is usually served like:

The presentation generally is very simple. Any Turkish meal always includes bread, the most typical would be something most like what is known in the US as a "French Loaf." A typical serving is about 5 Kofte served on a plate. On the side of the plate is a lump of dark red spices: essentially a spicy chili paste. In a separate serving dish shared by all is the Salata, a salad. The Salata served with Kofte always is dominated by slices or wedges of fresh tomato, often with some sliced cucumber and perhaps small slivers of fresh white onion and/or some hot peppers. There is no salad dressing per se, but salt and lemon juice, virgin olive oil, or vinegar often are sprinkled over the Salata. Sometimes, as in the above photo, the Kofte also is accompanied by white rice.

In most restaurants, you drink water, Ayran (thin yogurt), Gazoz (sweetened carbonated water), or Coke with the meal and hot Turkish tea afterwards.

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