Here is a type of meze that can be found everywhere in Turkey, in various forms. The one that I will give the recipe of is the torpedo-shaped fried version. Another version I have eaten until now is the boiled one which I think comes from Southern Turkey (but I cannot give the exact place of origin).
Icli Köfte is a common dish in Middle East and in North Africa, as well as some South American countries that have large Middle Eastern communities. The other names for the dish, which are more common than the Turkish name “icli köfte” are kibbeh or kibbe. The idea is the same: you make an outer shell with bulgur (and some other ingredients) and stuff it with sautéed ground meat. The shape of each piece and the way it is cooked (fried, boiled or baked) varies according to the region it is made, but the most common one is this one I am writing about.
I learned this recipe from my good friend, Sebnem Terzioglu Järventaus in a co-cooking session last year. I went to her apartment close to Arabia, and while we had a long, cheerful dialogue, we also prepared the dish. It is not a mezze that I am crazy about because in some restaurants it is cooked really heavily. That’s why I never tried to learn how to cook it and this was the first time I saw all the tricks to create this nice shell and to stuff it.
Sebnem used to be my colleague while I was working in my previous job, before working in Aalto. This means that we’ve known each other since March 2011. We were only colleagues for a long time, however, as the time passed, we became good friends. She always took care of me like a sister when I had trouble (and I have trouble really frequently) and I always made her laugh with my dark (and occasionally light) humour. Just recently, for instance, when I was feeling very depressed before I went to Istanbul for treatment, I stayed at her place for about 10 days. Yes, it was one of the very very few safest places in Helsinki for me, so, thank you, Sebnem…
For outer shell:
1 cup / 2.4 dl bulgur (couscous works too – I use couscous because bulgur just blows me like a balloon!!!)
1 cup / 2.4 dl flour
Water (as much as needed)
1 tbsp / 15 ml paprika paste
1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil
1 onion, chopped into small pieces
500 gr. ground meat – beef
1 tsp / 5 ml salt
1 1 cup / 2.4 dl walnuts
oil (could be sunflower oil, corn oil.. but I do not recommend olive oil because when fried, it smells too heavy)
1. First let’s make the filling. The first few steps of this have no photos because Sebnem had already prepared those steps. But we really did not need to take photos, it’s quite easy: in a frying pan, put olive oil (you can also use butter if you prefer) and sauté onion until it gets translucent. Then add ground meat and salt and continue to sauté until the meat is cooked.
2. Chop the walnuts coarsely into small pieces. Add walnuts to meat. The filling is ready, put aside.
3. Now we do the outer shell. In a mixing bowl, put bulgur, flour, salt and by the help of water knead the bulgur mixture. How much water you should use depends on the ingredients. Water is used to keep the mixture together so that you can create shells. So just prepare a bowl of water and little by little add to bulgur mixture. Or, you can just moist your kneading hand with water and continue kneading like that.
4. Once the mixture gets sticky enough to form a shell, add paprika paste and continue kneading until paprika paste is incorporated.
5. Now we will shape the shell. Take a handful of bulgur mixture in your hand. While holding this mixture with one hand, use your other hand to shape it like a little bowl, as seen in the second picture below.
6. Stuff the bowl shaped bulgur mixture with filling. Do not fill it up to top, leave a little space to close the shell. What you should do is just to close the open part and gently shape the whole thing in torpedo shape. Do not press too much and be really gentle, so that the shell does not crack and the filling does not pour out.
7. Use all the ingredients and make all the pieces.
8. In a bowl, crack 2 eggs and beat them.
9. In a frying pan, not a shallow one but a deep one, pour oil and heat it (how much oil should you use? just enough to partially cover or fully cover each piece to fry evenly).
10. Once the oil is heated enough to fry, start frying. First, cover each piece with beaten eggs, then put into the frying oil. Leave them in the oil, by turning each piece every now and then, until the shell is cooked. Serve warm right away, or cool down and serve in a couple of hours. Even though it is quite heavy, you can still serve it as a starter.