Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dutch Oven Kofta bi Tahini

"The Cat's Away..." Part II

Another dish that I love, but is not one of my wife's favorites is Kofta with Tahini sauce.  There are a lot of strong flavors in it, and they all blend together very nicely.  At it's most basic, it's a ground meat and potato dish, but it gets its flavors from the middle eastern spices and the tahini paste with lemon juice sauce.

Before I get into the process, there are a few special ingredients you need to acquire, and you might have to get them from a specialty store, possibly even a middle eastern market.  If you can't find them, you can do some mixing (in some cases) and some substitutions.

One ingredient you really can't substitute is the Tahini Paste.  It's like all-natural peanut butter, but it's made from ground sesame seeds.  I can usually find it in health-food stores.  It has a strong, nutty and almost bitter edge, but when combined with the lemon juice it's just plain amazing.

Another is a middle-eastern blend of spices.  This you might have to get from a middle-eastern market.  Sometimes it's just called "Middle-Eastern Spice" and sometimes it's called "Baharat".  If you can't find it, you can make it by following the blend here at wikipedia.  There are lots of different blends of baharat.  A good basic blend will include:

  • Cumin
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Tumeric
  • Coriander

If all else fails, you can use Allspice.  It won't be the same, but it's still good.

A third issue is the meat.  Most of the time I've eaten this it's been made of ground beef.  This time, I tried it with lamb, and I think that made a big difference to the overall success of the dish this time.  Of course, lamb is pretty expensive.  In theory, you could use any ground meat, even turkey.  No self-respecting muslim would use pork, of course, but if you're a christian, or an atheist, go for it.

I first cooked this dish way back in the early days of Mark's Black Pot, and I've only done it once or twice since then.  It was taught to me by a Palestinian friend and his wife (who also provided me with the jar of home-mixed baharat).

So, let's get started, shall we?

Kofta bi Tahini in the Dutch Oven

12” Dutch Oven
10 briquettes below
16 briquettes above

  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • 2-3 medium potatoes, quartered and sliced, or sliced like big french fries

  • 1 lb ground meat (as mentioned, I used lamb this time)
  • 1 Tbsp baharat spices (or equivalent)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • If you squeeze your lemon juice fresh (for the next set of ingredients), zest one of those lemons and add it here)

  • 1 cup tahini paste
  • ~1/2 cup lemon juice
  • ~1/2 cup water

It all started by lighting up some coals, heating up the oil in the dutch oven, and sauteing the onions and the garlic. Once those were browned and translucent, I added the potatoes.  I stirred them to coat them with the oil and salt, and put the lid on.  I didn't shift the coals to the top yet, though.

Then I made the meat mixture.  It was pretty simple, I just added all of the ingredients together and mixed them all up.  Traditionally, the meat is formed into elongated meatballs, almost finger-shaped.

Then, I mixed up the tahini sauce.  This was a little trickier.  The amounts are estimates.  I stirred in equal amounts of water and lemon juice, but only a bit at a time.  You want two things to happen:  One, it needs to come to a thick soup-like consistency, and Two, it needs to balance the taste between the lemon and the tahini.  Words can't describe that balance, you just need to taste it along the way and see when it all blends right.  I just kept adding juice and water until it all looked and tasted right.  A pinch of salt will also help bring out the flavors.

Then, I opened the dutch oven lid and arranged the meat sticks on top of the potatoes and onions.  I poured the tahini sauce over it, and then dashed in about a quarter cup more water. 

I adjusted the coals to the right amounts above and below for baking, and set it to cook.  It cooked for about 45 minutes or so.  After about a half hour, the meat was getting cooked through, so I stirred it up.  If you stir it up before that, it'll all break apart.  When the potatoes are done, it's finished!

I also pulled out my 8" dutch oven and cooked up some rice.  I also made some of that cucumber and yogurt salad that was in that first blog entry I did when I made this in my dutch ovens so many years ago.  This time, however, I didn't have any tomatoes.

It was so much better this time than I'd ever made it before.  I was in heaven.  Even Jodi said it wasn't too bad when she came home.


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.


  1. I am so impressed you did rice in your black pot. It cleans up nicely? Your dish sounds absolutely wonderful.

  2. Rice in the dutch oven not only cleans up easily (the black patina coating keeps it all from sticking), but it's pretty easy to do once you get the hang. I'll post about how to do it.

  3. I am impressed by the wide spectrum of your tastes! How cultured you are! Every bit of that food would go to waste with the tough crowd of PBJ and Mac &Cheese lovers around here! I am officially way super very impressed!



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