Recipe: Kefta mkawra

Kefta is one of those great examples of the spread of culture and food, often through trade, conquest, and immigration. Kefta, as we usually call it in the US, is essentially ground meat–often beef or lamb–shaped into balls with a variety of spice and herbs, sometimes onions, mixed in. It is a ubiquitous dish throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and South Asia, Turkey and Greece, and the Balkan nations. They’re served in stews, curries, dry–whatever.

Each nation/region has its own way of pronouncing kefta–kofta, kufte, ćufta, ćufte, qofte, kafta, and many other variations. However, the root word comes from the Persian “kōfta,” from the verb “kōftan,” meaning “to pound” or “to grind,” reflecting the ground meat that is used to make the meat balls. I haven’t been able to find further details, but I wonder if the word–and the food–spread with the expansion of the Achaemenid Persian Empire through the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, Asia Minor, and into Greece starting in 550 BCE.

In Morocco, kefta in tomato-based sauces are usually cooked in a tagine. I haven’t gotten around to buying one yet, but I made this dish called kefta mkawra (mkaouara), kefta with eggs, with a Le Creuset pot.

Ingredients – kefta:

  • 1 lb ground beef or lamb
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ onion diced finely
  • Paprika
  • Cumin (ground or whole seeds, broken up)
  • Cinnamon (ground)

Mix the seasoning into the meat and roll into cherry-sized balls

Ingredients – sauce:

  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • Paprika
  • Cumin (ground or whole seeds, broken up)
  • 3 medium tomatoes – diced
  • Salt to taste, or use olives (since they’re pretty salty anyway)
  • 3-4 eggs (for later use)

IMG_0836

Instructions:

  • Heat pot/tagine with 3 tbs olive oil and onions, garlic – saute
  • Add tomatoes and spices
  • Once tomatoes have softened, drop in meatballs
  • Cover and cook at medium low for 20 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through
  • Toss in olives if using
  • Crack 3-4 eggs on top and cover pot to poach the eggs
  • Dust eggs with cumin, other spices to taste, and serve!

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