Kufta is one of the most popular Azerbaijani national dishes. It is served as a first and a second course meal at the same time and made of ground lamb or beef formed into medium-sized balls. The word “kufta” (or kyufta) is derived from the Persian word “kuftan,” which means “to beat” or “to grind,” because, traditionally, the grounded meat for the kufta needs to be beaten before forming it into balls. The word “bozbash” comes from the Turkish-Azerbaijani word “boz,” which means gray, and “bash,” which means head.
*A full-sized picture of this dish is available in the Gallery
Ingredients for 4 servings:
1 lb (450 g) ground lamb or beef
1 large onion
2 tablespoons uncooked short grain rice
4 dried sour green cherry-plums (alcha)
½ cup chickpeas
4 small red tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of saffron threads
½ teaspoon dried mint
Meat stock (or water)
Cooking the chickpeas.
Before cooking dried chickpeas, the first thing you will have to do is soak them. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them completely with cold water. Allow them to soak overnight (about 12 hours). Once they’re finished soaking, drain and transfer them to a large cooking pot. Add two cups of water to the chickpeas and bring it to a boil. Cover the pot and let it simmer until they are tender (about one hour). Drain the chickpeas in a colander or strainer and let them cool down. Then you need to remove the skin from the chickpeas. Use your fingers to very gently squeeze each chickpea and loosen its skin. You can squeeze them from one hand into the other. It is a very easy to do procedure. Once you remove the skins you can throw them away.
Alternatively, you can use canned chickpeas. They are more expensive, but you will save your time.
Preparing the Kufta.
In a mixing bowl, combine the ground meat with ground onion and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Then, it is desirable to beat the forcemeat (forcemeat is a combination of ground meat, fat, onion, and seasonings). Take the forcemeat out of the bowl and throw it back into the bowl, repeating the process until it becomes a smooth mass and all the ingredients are well-blended.
Then, add the rice, mix well, and place in the refrigerator for an hour.
Moisten your hands in salted water, shake off the excess, take a handful amount of forcemeat* (about the size of a large apple), place one dried sour cherry-plum in the middle, and roll it into a ball.
Put the ball on a plate and repeat with the rest of the forcemeat.
Put the kufta balls into the boiling stock or water, reduce heat to low, add saffron threads and salt to taste, and cook until the rice in the balls is cooked, it will stick out from the kufta. Then, add the peeled potatoes (you can add them whole, or cut them into large pieces), chickpeas, tomatoes, and dried (or fresh) mint. Cook everything together until the potatoes are done.
Serve on individual plates – one kufta ball per person.
Bon Appétit! Enjoy!
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