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Mother-in-Law’s Amazing Kufteh Soup: A Recipe for Ramadan

Firstly: for those of you are fasting – Ramadan Mobarak! Yesterday was the first of Ramadan for most Muslims. Whilst it is the month of fasting, it is also a month focused very much on food, and many of the recipes in Snackistan are based on the idea of iftar, or breaking fast.

The following recipe is more comfort food than anything else, although my mother-in-law makes it so quickly that it is truly a snack soup. It is astonishingly good any time of the day, but (I imagine) especially appetising if you have not eaten ‘owt else all day.

Ingredients (to feed 4):

  • 400g minced lamb
  • 2 onions, 1 (small) grated, 1 (large) diced
  • 1 level teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • oil for frying
  • around 1350ml water (or stock)
  • 100g rice (any)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons good tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried mint
  • 2-3 tablespoons verjuice (ab-ghooreh) OR juice of one lemon
  • pepper to taste

Mix the lamb with the grated onion, spices and salt, pounding well to get the lamb fat to soften. Roll the mixture into baby meatballs (around 2cm in diameter) and fry them (briefly, like for a few minutes) in a good splash of oil. Reserve, but leave the oil in the pan.
Put the water in a saucepan, add the rice and bring it to the boil. After 7-8 minutes add the tomato paste and set to simmer. In the meantime fry the diced onion in the reserved oil. Just as it starts to brown, toss in the mint, stirring constantly, and cook until the onion is thoroughly browned and the mint just beginning to smoke*.

Once the rice is soft (after about 15 minutes) and the liquid reduced to a little under than a litre, lower the fried meatballs into the bubbling stock. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the fried onion/mint mixture (allowing any excess oil to drain back into the pan) and add this to the stock ‘n’all. Finally add verjuice or lemon juice to taste, and pepper as required. The tomato paste and the seasoning in the kufteh should offer sufficient salt – but chuck some more in if your are a regular salt pot like Mr. Shopkeeper. Bubble the mixture for another 5-6 minutes before serving with warm bread.

Ghabul bashe! Which is what you say to those breaking fast – it kind of means “May your fast be accepted!”
*This is a famous garnish or seasoning in Iran and you will find it added to all sorts of soups and stocks. It is called ‘piaz dagh’.

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