Grilled Turkish Lamb Skewers with a Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce

Tony writes: These days, I tend to travel to places solely for the sake of eating; and then, when I get home, I try to replicate what I ate on the road. It’s a happy little cycle that gives me inspiration. Right now, I am still catching up on a visit to Istanbul a year ago: at the top of my culinary checklist sit kofta: spiced ground lamb that is formed into torpedo-shaped skewers for grilling, kinda like a case-less sausage. Kofta embody the best elements of Turkish food: spiced with light hits of garlic and heat, exotic but approachable. Since grill weather started a month or two back, I’ve been working on this recipe and finally gotten it to good. Here’s how:

Note: It’s ok to work it: The rule of thumb when forming meatballs, sausages, burgers, etc… is to pack lightly. Using more pressure makes for a denser (ie: meatloaf-ish) texture. But kofta demand a decent grip to create their ovular shape and so they adhere to the skewer. Don’t stress it if you have to use a little extra force to get the meat to comply,


The Recipe: Serves 4


1. Make the lamb mixture: Set 1 1/2 lb. ground lamb in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix 1 tsp. kosher salt1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. ground coriander, 1/2 tsp. ground paprika, and 1/2 tsp. Pimenton de la Vera, Sprinkle over the meat along with 1 garlic clove (minced), 2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley and 1 Tbs. sesame seeds. Mix well to incorporate and then let sit for at least 1 hr in the refrigerator and up to 24 hr.


2. Form the kofta and make the yogurt sauce: Divide the meat into 2-oz handfuls and, using both hands, pack into cylindrical shapes; use cold water to continually rinse your hands. Thread metal skewers (or wooden skewers that have been soaked for 1 hr) through the center and refrigerate until grilling. For the yogurt sauce, mix 1 cup Greek yogurt with 1 cup finely diced cucumber (use a seedless cucumber), 2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley, 2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint, 1 small garlic clove (minced) and S+P to taste.


3. Grill the kofta: Prepare a medium hot charcoal or gas fire. Grill the kofta, flipping every minute or two, until they brown evenly and are still light pink in the center when you make a nick into a thicker piece, about 6 min total. Serve with warm pita, sliced tomato and onion, and the yogurt sauce.  


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