The Palestinian kitchen is filled with a variety of meat, fish and vegetable kefte, which are balls of seasonal ingredients that have been molded, stuffed, baked or fried. This is my interpretation of a vegetarian kefte, using the region’s ubiquitous eggplants married with fresh, fragrant herbs and tangy white cheese. These are perfect for picnics and keep well for a few days in the fridge.
1 1/3 lbs./600g eggplants (about 2 large ones) chopped into 1/4 in./1cm squares
3 tablespoons olive oil or any neutral oil, plus more for the sheet
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/3 cups/175g bulgur wheat
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
3 tablespoons/10g mint leaves, finely chopped
3 1/2 tablespoons/15g parsley leaves, finely chopped
6 oz./175g feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup/50g sunflower and pumpkin seeds
2 eggs, lightly beaten
finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.
Place the eggplant pieces on a baking sheet and drizzle with the 3 tablespoons cooking oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Use your hands to mix the pieces, then roast for 25 minutes, or until soft. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and leave to cool.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the bulgur wheat and cook for 15 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain well again, then add the bulgur to the eggplant.
Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C, or just increase the temperature if you didn’t turn the oven off.
Toast the cumin and coriander seeds by stirring them in a dry pan for a few minutes until their aromas are released, then grind in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. Stir into the eggplant and bulgur wheat with all the remaining ingredients, seasoning with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Oil a baking sheet, then use your hands to mold 12 equal-sized kefte and place them on the prepared sheet.
Roast for around 20 minutes, or until the kefte are golden all over.
Recipe and photograph from Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan. Copyright © 2018 by Yasmin Khan. Reprinted with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
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