Turkish Köfte with Stout or IPA

Cooking with Beer by | Mar 2015 | Issue #98

Photos by Sean Z. Paxton

Before there were meat grinders, Turkish cooks would finely chop meat into tiny cubes and use their hands (or a mortar and pestle), to massage and mash it with spices, herbs and rice, or another starch, making a sticky meat paste. Then they’d form the meat into long cigar-shaped cylinders and skewer them onto a stick. This is köfte, a meatball-like kebab.

Lamb Köfte
There are hundreds of variations of köfte throughout the Middle East. This recipe combines lamb with Stout, cumin, parsley and sumac (a deep red, tangy berry) to create a delicious main course.

Serves: 3–4 people (6 köfte)

1/4 cup red onion, peeled, halved and finely grated
2 each garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tbsp Italian leaf parsley, chopped fine
1 tbsp bread crumbs or almond flour/meal
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp sumac, ground (or freshly squeezed lemon juice)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp urfa chili* (or aleppo), crushed
1/2 tsp black peppercorns, freshly cracked
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp beer, preferably a roasty Stout
1 lb. lamb, ground

* Available at most Middle Eastern markets, specialty markets or online.

Place a box grater in the center of a medium-sized bowl.  Grate the red onion on the large grate side, until you have about 1/4 cup. Next, grate the garlic on a microplane (or finely mince with a knife). Add the chopped parsley, bread crumbs (or nut meal for a different texture/flavor), tomato paste, sumac, urfa chili, cumin, pepper, paprika and beer. Using a spatula, mix together well, allowing the ingredients to dissolve and infuse evenly into the meat.

To complete this recipe see the Köfte Instructions below.


Chicken & Turkey Köfte
Lamb is the most common type of köfte, but that isn’t to say that other meats can’t be used. When substituting poultry, blending equal parts ground chicken and turkey keep kebabs moist and flavorful.

Serves: 3–4 people, (6 köfte)

1/4 cup yellow onion, peeled and grated
2 each garlic cloves, peeled and grated
2 tbsp Italian leaf parsley, chopped fine
2 tbsp bread crumbs or almond meal
1 tbsp beer, such as an herbal or citrusy IPA or DIPA
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp Za’atar* seasoning mix
1/2 tsp paprika, preferably smoked
1/2 lb. chicken, ground, preferably thigh (dark) meat
1/2 lb. turkey, ground, preferably thigh (dark) meat

Start with a medium-sized bowl and a box grater. Peel half of a large onion and grate it on a medium grate into the bowl. Then using a microplane grate the garlic into the same bowl. Add the chopped parsley, bread crumbs (or almond meal if you have gluten issues), a hoppy IPA with notes of herbs like oregano, marjoram, basil, bay leaf or parsley, salt, Za’atar seasoning and paprika. Use a spatula to mix these ingredients well. This will help evenly distribute the flavors throughout the meat.

Köfte Instructions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the ground meat. Add the onion spice mixture and, using a paddle attachment, beat the ingredients together on medium speed for 2–3 minutes. This method is the trick to differentiating köfte from a standard meatball. When mixed thoroughly, the proteins become sticker, allowing the ground meat to stick to itself better and hold onto a skewer more easily.

Divide the meat mixture into six equal portions. Have a bowl of cold water nearby. Dip your hands in the water; this will help prevent the ground meat from sticking to your hands. Take a portion of the meat and gently mold it into a log shape. Skewer it down the center and place onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil (this disposable layer keeps the sheet tray free of raw meat, leaving a clean surface for the grilled köfte after they’re cooked). Repeat with the remaining meat, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight to marry the flavors.

To Cook:
Grill: Preheat a gas grill set to medium-high heat for 15 minutes. With charcoal, make a good pile of coals that are red hot and lightly coated with white ash. Place the köfte skewers on a clean and lightly oiled grill grate and cook for 3–4 minutes a side. The internal temperature should be at least 160°F.

Stove Top: Using a cast iron skillet or sauté pan placed over medium-high heat, add a few tablespoons of oil (olive or vegetable) and lay the köfte in the pan, avoiding overcrowding. Cook for 4 minutes on the first side, flip and cook another 3–4 minutes until the internal temperature reaches at least 160°F.

Serve as a sandwich or a wrap by spreading a teaspoon of Lebanese Garlic Sauce, a good scoop of Hoppy Tabbouleh, a köfte and a few spoonfuls of its accompanying sauce on a warm pita, naan or lavosh bread. Add some roasted or fried potato cubes, a sprinkle of thinly sliced red onion, chopped parsley and a few sesame seeds. Serve with hot sauce. Or as a main course, make a mound of Hoppy Tabbouleh on a plate, top it with the köfte, its sauce, slices of red onion and Tangerine IPA Yogurt Sauce or Pomegranate Rose Stout Yogurt Sauce. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Hoppy Tabbouleh
Tabbouleh or tabouli is a vegetarian salad made with a cracked wheat called bulgur, parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions, garlic and mixed with a lemon olive oil dressing. It’s a staple in many Middle Eastern countries and is served alongside a variety of dishes.

Serves: 4 as a salad or 6 in a wrap/sandwich

2 cup water, boiling
1 cup wheat bulgur
1 tsp kosher salt
4 each sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 each red onion, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped
2 cup Italian leaf parsley, fresh, washed, stems removed and minced
1/2 cup mint leaves, minced
1 tbsp dried hops cones, such as Centennial, Cascade or Amarillo, minced
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp IPA, like Ballast Point Sculpin IPA or Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA
1 tbsp malt vinegar
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Just as it comes to a boil, whisk in the bulgur wheat, salt and sun-dried tomatoes. Bring the mixture back to a boil, turn off the heat, cover with a lid and let sit for 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Next, add the onion, garlic, parsley, mint and hops to a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside.

In a small bowl, add the olive oil, IPA, malt vinegar and cracked pepper. Once the bulgur is done, fluff the wheat with a fork and add it to the parsley mixture. Pour over the IPA vinaigrette and toss to mix all the ingredients together. Taste and add salt, if needed. If the IPA you are using isn’t very citrusy, you can add 1 teaspoon of lemon/orange/tangerine juice to brighten the flavors of the salad. This salad can be made a day in advance and should be kept refrigerated until ready to serve.

Pomegranate Rose Stout Yogurt Sauce
Turkish cuisine is full of bold flavors. This sauce blends a fruity, tart pomegranate reduction with floral rose water, roasty Stout, sour sumac and tangy yogurt creating a great juxtaposition when paired with grilled Lamb Köfte.

Makes: about 1/2 cup of sauce

1/2 cup whole plain yogurt, Greek style
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses*
1 tbsp Stout beer
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp ground sumac (or 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice)
1 tsp rose water*
1/2 tsp kosher salt

* Available at most Middle Eastern markets, specialty markets or online.

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, pomegranate molasses, Stout, olive oil, sumac, rose water and salt. This sauce will be pretty thick. Transfer to a jar, seal and let infuse for an hour before using. It will keep for a week refrigerated.

Tangerine IPA Yogurt Sauce
This sauce recipe adds a nice bit of tang from the yogurt, some acidic citrus notes from a hoppy IPA and a nuttiness from the sesame seed paste that complements a Chicken & Turkey Köfte perfectly.

Makes: about 1/2 cup of sauce

1/2 cup whole plain yogurt, Greek style
2 tbsp IPA, especially a citrusy variety
2 tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp tangerine or orange zest
1 tbsp tangerine or orange juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt

In a small bowl, add the yogurt, IPA, tahini, sesame seeds, tangerine (or other citrus) zest and juice and salt. Using a whisk, mix the ingredients together. Transfer the sauce to a jar and seal, refrigerating for a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to infuse. It will last up to a week in the refrigerator.

Lebanese Garlic Sauce
Warning: this sauce is addictive. As simple as the ingredients sound, it’s truly amazing with köfte, on pita or pretty much anything that needs a touch of garlic and lemon.

Makes: 1 pint

1/2 cup garlic cloves, peeled (about 1 1/2 heads)
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed
2 cup oil, preferably vegetable or other neutral oil (not olive)

In the bowl of a food processor, add the garlic and salt. Pulse several times to mince the garlic to a fine paste. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and with the motor running, slowly drizzle in a cup of oil, as with a mayonnaise or aioli. Then add the remaining lemon juice and drizzle in the remaining oil. The sauce will be thick and intense. Transfer it to a jar and refrigerate for up to a month.