These homemade meatballs (kefta) make a really fabulous dinner, and are especially great if you find yourself in a weeknight recipe rut and need something a little different. If lamb isn't a regular on your table, don't be shy of using it here — it pairs absolutely perfectly with the fresh mint and parsley and smoky spices. Traditional recipes will tell you to have your butcher grind the meat from the leg, but I find the packaged ground lamb from my grocer works incredibly well.
I have recently become obsessed with exploring the culinary world of the Mediterranean, and I've been incorporating many new recipes from Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon into my regular cooking repertoire. The combination of bold spices and delicate heat, balanced by cooling sauces and a subtle sweetness bring every meal together in perfect harmony.
One of my go-to dishes is lamb kefta, or ground lamb kebabs, which is a popular form of street food in Morocco — and throughout the Mediterranean, for that matter. At all hours in the bustling city Medinas, you can find cooks taming their flames and tempting customers with the aroma of freshly grilled meats and vegetables.
I like to form my kefta into long sausage-like cylinders, but you can shape them into flat patties or round meatballs if you desire. They can easily be cooked outside on the barbecue, but I like the ease of a cast iron grill pan. I like to skewer them — it makes a fun presentation and makes them easier to turn — but it's definitely not necessary. Also, if lamb isn't your thing, ground beef also works really well here, too.
I always serve my kefta with a tangy yogurt sauce and store-bought naan. (I love Trader Joe’s frozen garlic naan! It's so good and makes such an easy side.) If I'm grilling, sometimes I’ll grill zucchini coins alongside the kebabs, but I also love an easy sauté of canned chickpeas with garlic, onion, cumin, and harissa paste. It's a pretty exceptional side dish, takes mere minutes to throw together, and makes an excellent pairing with the kefta.
Easy Lamb Kefta
For the kefta:
3 tablespoons minced red onions
3 tablespoons minced herbs (mix of Italian parsley, cilantro, and mint)
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin (preferably toasted and ground yourself)
3/4 teaspoon pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) or regular paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground lamb or beef
1 teaspoon olive oil
For the yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 heaping teaspoon minced herbs (mix of Italian parsley, cilantro, and mint)
2 teaspoons lemon juice, or to taste
Pinch of kosher salt
For the chickpeas:
2 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon minced red onion
1 large clove garlic
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
1 teaspoon harissa paste
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin (preferably toasted and ground yourself)
1/2 teaspoon pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) or paprika
Kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced herbs (mix of Italian parsley, cilantro, and mint), for garnish
Store-bought naan or flatbreads
For the kefta, toss the onions, minced herbs, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater blade (or a large mixing bowl) and mix until combined. Add the ground lamb and beat until all of the ingredients are incorporated, about 1 minute. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes to an hour while you finish getting everything else ready for dinner.
Grab a handful of meat, form into an oblong, sausage-like shape, and slide onto a skewer. Repeat with remaining meat. (You can also form them into any shape you like, such as flat patties, meatballs, or torpedoes, and cook them skewered or un-skewered.) Heat a large griddle or grill pan over medium-high and generously coat with cooking oil. Once the oil is sizzling, add the skewers and cook until deep golden brown on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until meat is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes more.
For the yogurt sauce, combine the yogurt, herbs, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
For the chickpeas, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, 1 to 2 minutes, followed by the garlic for another 20 seconds or so. Add the chickpeas, harissa, cumin, pimentón, and a generous pinch of salt. Pour in the chicken stock and increase heat to high; simmer until the mixture is almost dry. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning. Drizzle with additional olive oil before serving.
- Chop all of the herbs for the lamb, yogurt sauce, and chickpeas together to save yourself some prep time.