There’s an incredible variety of köfte, meatballs, in Turkey. Izmir köfte is one of my favourites. Not only is it delicious, it’s also super easy to make – perfect for a weeknight supper.
When I moved to Istanbul in summer 2015, the house restoration was supposed to be completed. But as anyone who has been through a major restoration work knows: things never go according to schedule. And so it was that my first two months in Istanbul, my partner and I stayed at his parents on the other side of Istanbul. (If you’re wondering what our house looks like, I put a picture on Instagram last week.)
The dish is as simple as it is genius: Köfte, or Turkish meatballs if you like, with potatoes, peppers and a simple tomato sauce. All chucked into a roasting pan and left to its own in the oven while you go about any other business that needs attending to.
Meanwhile, the most wonderful aromas filling the kitchen reminds you dinner is almost ready.
How to prepare Izmir köfte
Izmir köfte can be prepared in many different ways. Each region, even each chef, have their own special way of preparing the meatballs. So feel free to vary the flavouring according to your own taste.
I’ve kept it simple and (with one exception) fairly traditional, using garlic, flat-leaf parsley, cumin and fresh chili to flavour the meatballs.
Fresh chili isn’t commonly used in Turkey, but since I got hold of some at the market last week I’ve used it in place of the more traditional pul biber here. Pul biber are relatively mild and aromatic dried chili flakes, also known as Aleppo pepper. Feel free to substitute a teaspoon or two of pul biber for the fresh chili, if you like.
Shredded onion is also commonly added, but for this particular dish I prefer my Izmir köfte without. If you like, however, you can add 1/2 shredded onion.
First, the keep the meatballs from crumbling. But most importantly, they keep the meatballs moist and juicy, even if they’re allowed to roast for a little longer than strictly necessary.
You can use any bread, though I’d use one without lots of seeds or other dominating flavours if you can; the crumbs are there for the reasons mentioned and not for flavour. I use slightly stale bread, i.e. not the completely dried stuff such as shop-bought panko, though that will work too.
Izmir köfte is traditionally served with Turkish style rice and perhaps a bowl of Greek yoghurt on the side, though you may also serve it as is, if you prefer. I usually also serve a simple salad on the side, such as some green leaves or shredded carrot and radish with a squeeze of lemons and a few dabs of extra virgin olive oil.