Thursday, 31 March 2011

K is for... koftas

I knew even before I'd cooked the letter A that K would have to include kebabs. Richard and I love meat. Unashamedly and indulgently. We discuss the prospect of eating a rare, bloody steak with the same enthusiasm as others discuss potential holidays abroad or shoe shopping trips.  We love it when friends are involved in shows at the Arcola Theatre, just so we have an excuse to go to Mangal Ocakbasi across the road. Obviously we're also doing it to be supportive friends and because we like going to the theatre. But make no mistake, it's mainly about the meat. We go days without eating flesh but vegetarianism is definitely not for us and unless bowel cancer comes along and kicks us in the arse, I can't see us changing anytime soon.

Initially, my plan for the koftas was to make them from kid mince for an extra K, but being as disorganised as ever, I didn't get myself to Brixton before the market shut and there was no time to order some online. I popped on the train to Balham to do a big food shop and walked past a butchers that had "goat chunks" in the window. My attention grabbed, I stepped inside. Looking up and down the counter, I felt my initial hope falling as the "chunks" seemed to be all they had in the way of goat - kid, or otherwise. The greasy-haired man behind the counter asked me what I was looking for, I asked him if he had any kid mince. 
"Kid mince?" 

He looked alarmed. Fearing he thought the current cuts had made Swift's Modest Proposal a coalition policy, I reassured him, 

"Young goat mince, made from goats". 

He raised his eyebrows, looked me up and down and smiled, revealing several gold teeth,

 "Of course! I get you kid mince. How much you want?". 

As he spoke, he slyly pulled a label out of a block of mince under the counter and hid it behind his back. I'd already seen that label. It had read "lamb mince". 

"Er, hang on, didn't that sign say lamb mince?". 

He shook his head with feigned confusion, 

"Sign? What sign?".

"The sign you're holding behind your back", I said. 

I heard a little thud, before he waved both hands at me and smiled his sharkish grin, gold teeth glinting under the flourescent strip lights. I gave him a I-wasn't-born-yesterday tilt of my head and he laughed. 

                           "OK, OK, it did say the lamb, but it is not the lamb, it is the kid really, but people usually prefer to think it is the lamb". 

Unsurprisingly, this failed to reassure me. 

"How much you want?", he said quickly. 

"Erm, I don't think..." I stammered. 

"How much? 500 grams? 1 kilo? How much you want?".

He winked at me and looked me up and down once more. I found myself trying to use my jute bags as a barrier against his fixed and unwelcome gaze. 

"2 kilos?", he said loudly. 

He wouldn't give up and I wanted to get out of there. 

"250 grams, er, please", I squeaked, ashamed of my weakness. 

He handed it to me, I paid and left. I didn't want this meat, whatever it was. Lamb or kid - he was definitely lying to someone. I could feel the weight of the meat at the bottom of my bag as it gently beat against my leg as I walked, as quickly as I could, to a place I felt safe, a place whose signs would never lie to me. Waitrose. Moving through the aisles, I walked straight to the meat section and placed a large recyclable plastic tub of organic lamb mince in my trolley. The seediness of my earlier experience subsided and was replaced by middle-class guilt in the shape of Duchy Originals.

The kid/lamb mince in the blue plastic bag at the bottom of my shopping bag stayed there until I came home and unpacked the shopping while telling Richard the story of what had happened. I didn't know what to do with it, but I knew I couldn't serve it at Alphabet Soup. I didn't know what it was! But I hate waste, particularly food waste. Finding myself unable to make a decision about its fate, I furtively bunged the blue plastic bag into the bottom of the meat drawer, closed the fridge door and breathed a sigh of relief at not having to look at it for the time being. My apparent inability to make a decision lasted long enough to take the decision out of my hands altogether, as several days later, Richard opened the fridge door and asked,

"What's that, in the blue bag?"

"Oh," I said "that's the kid/lamb mince. It's probably off by now"

I lifted it out of the meat drawer and threw it in the bin, feeling a huge sense of relief as my foot released the pedal and the lid crashed down.

Koftas



500 g/ 1/2 lb lean minced lamb (or kid if you can find it) 
1 onion, very finely chopped or grated
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tsp ground coriander
A handful of fresh mint, chopped
A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Oil for brushing

Bamboo skewers, which have been soaked in water.

Preheat your grill on high, or light your barbecue

Place all the ingredients into a bowl and thoroughly mix together. Form rugby ball-shaped little patties out of the mince around the drained skewers. Place the koftas on the grill pan/ barbecue. Brush them with oil and leave to cook, turning and brushing with more oil frequently, for 5-10 minutes (depending on their size) or until cooked through.  

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