Kofta is a Middle Eastern, South Asian and Balkan meatball or meatloaf. In the simplest form, koftas consist of balls of minced or ground meat — usually beef or lamb — mixed with spices and/or onions.
In India, Pakistan, Kurdistan, Turkey and Iran, koftas are usually made of lamb, beef, mutton or chicken, whereas Greek and Cypriot varieties are usually made of beef, veal, pork or mixtures of them.
They are often shaped into meatballs which are prepared with a mixture of ground meat, rice and leeks, and served dry. In Iran and Pakistan, koftas are served with a spiced gravy, as dry versions are considered to be kebabs. In India, vegetarian varieties like Shahi Malai Kofta are popular, as religious beliefs generally forbid consumption of meat. Shrimp and fish koftas are found in South India, coastal Pakistan, and in some parts of the Persian Gulf states.
The meat is often mixed with other ingredients such as rice, bulgur, vegetables, or eggs to form a smooth paste. Koftas are sometimes made with fish or vegetables rather than red meat, especially in India. They can be grilled, fried, steamed, poached, baked or marinated, and may be served with a rich spicy sauce. Variations occur in North Africa, the Mediterranean, Balkans and South Asia. In Pakistan, koftas are made of beef and chicken. According to a 2005 study done by a private food company, there were 291 different kinds of kofta in Turkey. In Arab countries, kufta is usually shaped into cigar-shaped cylinders.
Early recipes (included in some of the earliest known Arabic cookbooks) generally concern seasoned lamb rolled into orange-sized balls, and glazed with egg yolk and sometimes saffron. This method was taken to the West and is referred to as gilding, or endoring. Many regional variations exist, notable among them the unusually large Iran Tabriz kuftesi, having an average diameter of 20 cm, and despite its association with Iran, it is equally as popular in northern Pakistan.
Koftas were introduced to South Asia with the Muslim conquests. Koftas in South Asian cuisine are normally cooked in a spiced gravy, or curry, and sometimes simmered with hard boiled eggs. Kofta dishes are very popular with South Asian immigrants to the U.K., and are widely available from many Pakistani and Indian restaurants. Vegetarian koftas are generally eaten by Hindus, with the exception of Kashmiri Hindus who by and large prefer meat koftas. Likewise, many Indian Muslims consume vegetarian koftas, including those that migrated to Pakistan in 1947. The British dish Scotch Egg may have been inspired by the Moghul dish Nargisi Kofta, where hard-boiled eggs are encased in a layer of spicy kofta meat.
In Bengal, a region of eastern India, koftas are made with prawns, fish, green bananas, cabbage, as well as minced goat meat. In Kashmir and northern Pakistan, mutton is often used in the preparation of koftas, as opposed to beef or lamb.
In Lebanese cuisine, kafta is usually prepared by mixing the ground beef with onion, parsley, allspice, black pepper and salt.
In Moroccan cuisine, Kefta may be prepared in a tagine.
In Greek cuisine their name is Keftede and they are usually fried and eaten with tzatziki or yoghurt.
In Albania they are called Qofte, and they are usually made from beef, veal, pork or a mixture of them. They are usually served with Meze or Tarator. They are very popular all around Albania and there are many small shops called Qofteri which offer Qofte and also serve beer.
- Kofta with Zucchini Sauce – an exotic Arabic kofta from Omani cuisine served with a zucchini sauce, which gives it a lovely, delicate texture and flavour.
- Green Banana Kofta Curry – a specialty of the Eastern states of India. This kofta includes raw bananas and potatoes – mashed potatoes give some binding strength to the mushy banana koftas.
- Lebanese Fish Kofta – These quick and easy fish kofta are simply oblong fish fingers (without the breadcrumbs) served with a spicy sauce on a bed a rice.
- Nargisi Kofta – Hyderabadi Scotch Eggs – Scotch eggs may have been inspired by this Desi dish, where hard-boiled eggs are encased in a layer of seasoned minced lamb and served with a spicy tomato gravy.
- Soutzoukakia – Greek Smyrna Meatballs in Sauce – or İzmir köfte is a Greek and Turkish dish of spicy oblong kofte with cumin, cinnamon, and garlic served in tomato sauce.
- Kefta Mkaouara – Moroccan Spicy Meatball and Tomato Tagine – Well-seasoned meatballs are cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. Eggs are an optional but classic addition to the dish. The meatballs can be made from lamb or beef mince, or a combination of the two. Use a traditional tagine or a deep, wide skillet with a lid.
- Lebanese Kofta
- Tabriz Köfte – an Iranian-Azerbaijani recipe for large meat balls from north west of Iran from the city of Tabriz.
- Akçaabat Köftesi
- Malai Kofta with Spicy Gravy – A dish for special occasions, Malai Kofta is the vegetarian alternative to meatballs. It goes very well with naans (tandoor-baked flatbread) or jeera rice.
- Keftedes – Greek Meatballs
- Bulgur Meatballs – Harput Koftesi – this meatball originated from the Turkey village of Harput. It is made with added the lean beef mince, fine bulgur, cracked wheat, egg, tomato paste, salt, spices, parsley and basil. There are known also as large meatballs. These bulgur and beef mince meatballs are great for a midweek meal, plus make cooking easy for yourself
- Sulu Köfte – a Turkish traditional sour soup with meatballs. Köfte are meatballs usually made with minced beef’s meat, mixed with rice and spices and boiled in a çorba.
- Scotch Eggs – also known as an Egg Devil, consists of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried.