Recipe: Beef and lamb koftas in fragrant tomato sauce

Warm up with comfort food (Sephardi style) at its finest

  • place PRE 15 minutes
  • place COOK 1 hour 45 minutes (mostly hands off)
  • place SERVES 6
  • printicon

Koftas with rice was something I and a lot of kids would eat after school; the original version I used to have as a child will always have a place in my heart, but the recipe here is much improved. The sauce is richer, and I use a combination of lamb and beef, which gives the koftas a more complex flavour.


  • First, make the tomato sauce: heat the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the whole garlic cloves and sauté, without letting them colour, for 4–5 minutes.

  • Add the tomato purée and sauté for a further 2 minutes, then add the cumin and paprika, and stir over low heat. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper and oregano (no need to pick the leaves).

  • Bring the sauce to the boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to low and cook for 1–1 ½ hours. The sauce is ready when most of the water has evaporated, but it’s not too thick. If using, add the dried chillies.

  • Make sure the meat is at room temperature before you make the koftas. Put the meat in large bowl and add all the other ingredients, except the oil.

  • Mix with your hands until the mixture is evenly combined and there are no lumps of herbs in one area.

  • Form into 20 balls or oval-shaped koftas and arrange on a tray. Heat a wide frying pan with some vegetable oil over a medium heat, and fry in batches for 5–6 minutes, turning until they are a nice golden colour all over.

  • Remove from the pan to set aside and continue frying the rest of the koftas. Heat the sauce in wide, deep pan until almost boiling, then add the koftas to the sauce.

  • Cover and cook over a medium heat for 30–35 minutes.

  • Serve with steamed basmati rice or in pita with tahini, if you like.

Recipe adapted from Oren by Oded Oren (Hardie Grant)


For the tomato sauce
3½ tbsp olive oil
12 large garlic cloves, peeled
75g tomato purée (paste)
25g ground cumin
25g sweet paprika
1.5kg tinned whole tomatoes, chopped
20g sea salt
½ tsp cracked black pepper
25g oregano sprigs
3 dried red chillies (optional)
For the koftas
500g minced beef
300g minced lamb
150g onions, diced
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley (80g) leaves and some stalk, finely chopped
1 coriander bunch (80g) leaves and some stalk, finely chopped
100g dried breadcrumbs
5g sea salt
6g ground cumin
2 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying

To serve
Steamed basmati rice or pitas and tahini

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