Serves 6 as a main meal or 12 as part of a mezzo
Hands-on time 45min, simmering time 1¼-1½ hours, plus cooling
Sabrina Ghayour’s full-of-flavour meatballs, also known as koofteh berenji, are made with lots of fresh herbs and spices. They are best served with flatbreads and natural yogurt.
Nutritional info per serving
For 6 servings
Fat 22.4g (5.4g saturated)
Carbohydrates 42.7g (6.2g sugars)
150g basmati rice
100g yellow split peas
500g coarsely ground, best quality lamb or beef mince, around 20 per cent fat
Small bunch fresh flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
Small bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
Small bunch fresh chives, snipped
Small bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
3 tbsp plain flour
3 tsp ground turmeric
2 large onions, 1 finely chopped and 1 sliced thinly into half moons
2 handfuls barberries (see Know-how) or fresh/frozen and thawed cranberries, roughly chopped
3 medium free-range eggs
Olive oil for frying
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp tomato purée
400g tin chopped tomatoes
Extra fresh herbs, coarsely chopped
1. Put a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and pour in 1 litre freshly boiled water from a kettle. Season with salt, then add the rice and boil for 7 minutes. Drain the rice and set aside to cool.
2. Repeat the same process, cooking the yellow split peas in 1.7 litres boiling water in the same pan. Season with salt, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 25 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled rice and split peas, minced meat, herbs, flour, 2 tsp of the turmeric, the finely chopped onion, barberries/cranberries, eggs and a generous amount of salt and pepper, mixing well. Shape the mixture into about 12 large rugby ball-shaped meatballs.
4. Drizzle in enough oil to coat the base of a very large, deep saucepan with a lid (or a large casserole) and fry the sliced onions over a medium-low heat for 8 minutes or until beginning to colour slightly. Add the remaining 1 tsp turmeric and the garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes more. Add the tomato purée and stir well. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper to the mixture and stir.
5. Pour 1 litre water into the pan, add the chopped tomatoes and bring up to the boil. One by one place each koofteh (meatball) carefully into the pan and cook gently over a low-medium heat for 1¼ -1½ hours. Partially cover the pan with the lid – leave it slightly ajar. Once the cooking time has elapsed, taste and adjust the seasoning. Bring the pan to the table and serve sprinkled with fresh herbs, natural yogurt and some warmed flatbread, if you like.
Handle the mixture gently – it’s quite delicate at the beginning but will hold itself together when cooked.
Persians call them koofteh. Turks say köfte and Arabs kefta; all different pronunciations of the same root word ‘kofta’ meaning ‘to pummel’, referring to working the meat to a paste.
Dried barberries are used a lot in Persian cooking. They have a sweet-sour taste and look like small dried cranberries. Find them in Middle Eastern grocers or online.