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TURKISH MEATBALL, KOFTE

Kofte is a meatball made of ground meat. It can also be made without any meat at all however, as in the case of lentil or potato kofte. Grilled kofte cooked on a barbecue are a mainstay of picnics and outdoor meals whether it is done in the garden or on the balcony, or by restaurants and street vendors. At the mention of a barbecue, the first thought is to prepare kofte. When traveling and in need of a light but satisfying lunch, we head first for a kofte restaurant. Many places in Turkey have a nationwide reputation for their kofte, such as Edirne, Inegöl, Tekirdag, Sultanahmet in Istanbul, Adapazari, Sanliurfa, Akçaabat and Adana (other places I have not enumerated will I hope forgive me for the omission), and you are sure to find a kofte shop at every step. That marvelous appetizing flavor draws you in the right direction like a magnet. Fried kofte are also unforgettable. As the plates of kofte with golden fried potatoes arrive at the table, every eye, nose and fork is turned in their direction. Cold kofte cooked the previous day are associated with school outings, excursions with friends, and family picnics, with the classical accompaniments of hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, stuffed vine leaves, savory boreks and fruit.

If kofte are lightly fried, arranged in a baking dish with sliced potatoes and aubergines, a sauce of grated tomato cooked briefly in butter poured over, and baked in the oven, you have sahan kofte. If you mix your minced meat with rice instead of breadcrumbs, form the mixture into small balls, stew them in tomato sauce, and finally thicken the sauce with a liaison of a little flour and perhaps some lemon juice, you have eksili kofte, sulu kofte or Izmir kofte. For Sis kofte Gaziantep, Adana, Urfa or Aleppo style, threaded onto flat or angular skewers and grilled, the meat is not ground in a mincing machine but very finely chopped with a special knife, and then mixed with the particular combination of onion and seasoning used in each region. Whether mild or peppery, they go perfectly with a glass of tangy turnip juice.

In southern and southeastern Turkey, bulgur wheat is an essential ingredient of many varieties of meatball, above all the stuffed meatballs known as içli kofte with an outer shell of bulgur and minced meat and a filling of walnuts and spicy minced meat. Raw kofte are a specialty that requires top-quality meat without a trace of fat. This is then minced and kneaded with bulgur and the purplish hot pepper of the region, a task that requires skill, strength and patience to achieve perfect result. After eating four or five of these exquisitely flavored kofte you will be smoldering internally from the pepper, and the heat of the sun will seem mild in comparison! A quite different type of kofte has a name that is as memorable as its taste. Kadinbudu, or ladies' thighs kofte are prepared from a mixture of fried and raw minced meat with boiled rice, dipped in beaten egg and fried.

Reference: Tunca Varis/Skylife

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