Kefte Kebabs – A Taste Trip to the Middle East

Of all the lamb creations we have enjoyed both at home and in Middle Eastern restaurants, one of my favorites is kefte – lavishly seasoned skewers of ground lamb grilled and served with a lemony yogurt tahini sauce, pilaf, salad, and moist, chewy pillows of pita bread.

Last night’s dinner was my first effort at the kefte, from a recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, Season 14 and it beat the pants off of any version I’ve had before.  Their recipe called for 1-1/2 lbs of ground lamb – I adjusted it for just 1 lb for the two of us, and it was more than we could finish:


(can also be made into lamb burgers, no skewers involved)


INGREDIENTS FOR THE LAMB:  1/3 cup pine nuts; 1 plump garlic clove, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 3/4 tsp Kosher salt, 3/4 tsp cumin; 1/4 tsp ground pepper, 1/4 tsp ground coriander, 1/8 tsp each ground cloves, nutmeg & cinnamon; 1 lb ground Australian or New Zealand lamb; 1/4 of a medium sized sweet onion (enough to yield 1/3 cup when minced); 1/4 cup each minced fresh parsley and fresh mint; 1 tsp unflavored Knox gelatin (keeps the kefte moist after grilling)

METHOD: In a food processor, process the pine nuts, garlic and all dried spices and seasoning to a coarse paste, then transfer to large mixing bowl.  Process the fresh mint, parsley, and onion together to mince, then add to the mixing bowl.  Add the lamb and tsp of gelatin and knead by hand until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes.  Divide the mixture into four equal portions, about 5 ounces each, and shape each one into a 5″ cylinder about 1″ in diameter.  Thread each onto a metal skewer , pressing gently to adhere, and chill on a lightly greased platter or baking pan at least an hour before grilling. When ready to grill, heat gas grill to high and place skewers at 45-degree angles on the grate.  Should need only 10 minutes – 5 minutes per side:

Serve with the Yogurt-Tahini Sauce on the side for dipping:

2/3 cup plain goat-milk yogurt; 4 tsp lemon juice; 2 tsp tahini; 1 small garlic clove minced; pinch of salt – whisk and chill until ready to serve.

IMG_0565Accompanied by a simple rice pilaf:


And salad of mixed greens, diced cucumber, grape tomatoes, slivered radishes, red onion, Sheep’s milk feta, Kalamata olives, more fresh parsley and mint leaves, and dressed with a lemony vinaigrette:

IMG_0563It was a meal that transported us across the sea.  The tangy sauce was a perfect complement to the springy yet tender lamb, flavored with the heat and depth of dried spices and the bright, grassy flavors of fresh parsley and mint.  Certain to be repeated.



6 thoughts on “Kefte Kebabs – A Taste Trip to the Middle East

  1. Now that Mr. W understands just how good lamb is, this will most definitely be on a menu one night soon. Looks GREAT! You mentioned metal skewers- would wooden ones work- soaked of course?
    Not sure where my metal ones got to.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rockie, I usually use wooden skewers also, but since the recipe from ATK specified metal, I think it makes a difference. They might stick to bamboo skewers.


  3. Yahoooo- finally found some ground lamb, and just yesterday spotted my metal skewers hiding in a corner of my one pantry. Can’t WAIT to try these- hopefully on Thurs. Too much going on tomorrow, otherwise, it would be then.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great, Rockie – I think you’ll enjoy them. If you have sesame seeds on hand, it’s very easy to make your own tahini for the yogurt sauce. Just pulverize them in your blender with neutral-flavored oil (canola, for example) and a bit of sesame oil if you have it.


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