Koufteh Ghelgheli
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Recipe courtesy of Nasim Alikhani

Koufteh Ghelgheli

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 30 min
  • Active: 1 hr
  • Yield: 4 servings
This is a recipe from Isfahan, Iran and is my favorite meatball dish for summer days as you can eat them at room temperature. It is perfectly soft and full of flavor. I love it with basmati rice or good quality pita bread. We always have a platter of fresh herbs (tarragon, mint, basil and radish and edible flowers) with all our meals.


Saffron Water:


  1. Mix to combine the ground lamb, ground beef and the grated onion in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of the pepper, 3 teaspoons of the salt, 1 teaspoon of the turmeric and mix to combine. Add the chickpea powder and mix to completely combine. Mix by hand very well until you cannot see any of the meats’ red color and you have a soft uniform texture. Knead and roll by hand to form meatballs the size of a walnut.
  2. Add the oil and the finely chopped onion to a 5-quart Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until the onions are soft and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 teaspoons turmeric, mix and keep sauteing for 1 more minute. 
  3. Pour 2 cups of water over the onions and add the lemon juice, the remaining 3 teaspoons salt and the remaining 1 teaspoon pepper and increase the heat to bring to boil. Once the water is boiling, lower the temperature to medium and gently add the raw meatballs. Allow them to cook for 5 to 7 minutes before adding the carrots, potatoes and sour grapes. Let them boil for 5 minutes, then turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Leave the pot undisturbed; allow it to simmer together for 40 more minutes. 
  4. At this point you should have a thick sauce; if not, uncover the pot, increase the heat and bring to boil for few more minutes to reduce the sauce.  
  5. When ready to serve pour the saffron water over the dish. Serve with the rice and fresh herb platter. 

Saffron Water:

  1. Add the saffron to 1/4 cup of room temperature water in a water glass or coffee mug. Mix well. Leave it aside for 2 hours.

Cook’s Note

Fresh sour grapes are preferred, or you can buy them canned from a specialty Persian store. This item can be omitted but it adds to the dish.

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