Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lamb Kofta with Yogurt Sauce

Call it kebab, kabob, kofta, brochette or satay, "food on a stick is just plain fun." I read that somewhere, probably online, and can't help but agree. Today's lamb kofta on a roll might have would have tasted the same if prepared as a flat lamb slider on a burger bun, but the skewer and grilling approach added an indescribable special something to the end result. 

The succulent, tender lamb available today is a much improved product over the disagreeable, strong-tasting, tough-chewing meat (mutton?) of my childhood memories. Now I love sizzling lamb chops, herb-crusted rack of lamb, butterflied and grilled leg of lamb, well-seasoned lamb burgers... and spicy lamb kabobs. 

I don't spend too many moments thinking about the U.S. meat industry in general, but did page through the American Lamb Council's website. Here are a few fast facts about our American lamb:

  • There are over 82,000 sheep operations in the U.S. and a majority are family owned.
  • The top 5 sheep producing states are Texas, California, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota, though sheep are produced in nearly every state.
  • 80% of U.S. sheep are raised for meat, with wool being a byproduct.
  • A 3-oz serving of lamb has only 175 calories, meeting the FDA's definition for lean meat.
  • In addition to protein, lamb is an excellent source of vitamin B12, niacin, zinc, selenium, iron and riboflavin. 

Interesting factoids, and it surprised me to think of lamb as a lean meat, but really it's all about flavor.  Today's lightly-spiced lamb kofta were delicious... food on a stick that was just plain fun. 

Lamb Kofta
Yields 8 kofta or 4 skewers

1 pound ground lamb
2 heaping tablespoons fresh mint, minced
2 heaping tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
2 teaspoons garlic paste
3 tablespoons grated onion
1 tablespoon pimenton (smoky Spanish paprika)
1 scant teaspoon ground chili pepper (ancho or cayenne)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons za’atar (or sumac plus thyme)
1 tablespoon capers, drained & rinsed
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Yogurt sauce (recipe below)
  1. You will need a grill or cast iron grill pan and 4 long metal skewers.
  2. Mix the ingredients thoroughly by hand. Divide into 8 equal portions. With damp hands shape each portion of meat into a smallish cylinder. Slide two meat rolls onto a metal skewer, not touching but separated from each other, and set aside; repeat with remaining meat and skewers.
  3. Heat a ridged, cast iron grill pan over medium heat. Brush the pan lightly with olive oil.
  4. Grill the skewered meat, turning frequently, until a golden brown crust develops and the meat is still slightly pink but cooked nearly through. Careful, don’t overcook the lamb!
  5. Remove the kofte from the skewers and serve with warmed flatbread, pita or buns. Offer bowls of shredded greens and herbs, plus yogurt sauce on the side.

Yogurt Sauce:
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
grated lemon zest
2 green onions, finely sliced
Pinch of salt

Stir all of the sauce ingredients together, mixing thoroughly. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.


  1. I love your site and your lifestyle. I live in the valleys of Wales in the UK where the sheep graze in the wild here and often drift across the traffic in our valleys and mountains. In the estuaries the sheep feed on shoreland plants and herbs and the particular taste of the meat is much appreciated - if only by a few! Lamb is probably the only meat in the UK as a whole that is not intensively 'factory' farmed. Looking at your grilled lamb recipes I clicked on the link about US lamb and it worried me. It seemed to me (as an outsider) to be a website devoted to promoting the commercial factory farming of sheep by 'factory farming' interests. Am I wrong? One example: 'Flock Size – While many producers have small farm flocks between 50-300 animals, others have large operations ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 sheep.' Here no mention of the relative percentages of animals raised under different flock sizes and where are they raised - free-range or 'grass free' (barns) - there is nothing to indicate this. My suspicious mind,perhaps? I'd love to get some straight facts and figures rather than the apparent whitewash on this site. They may be genuine and keen to gloss over areas of contention with a careful choice of words but these days this is not acceptable (if it ever was!). Nonetheless keep on with the blog for me - I love your American adventurist spirit!

  2. Roger, thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. As mentioned above I don't read much about the US meat industry, but a quick Google search brought up a plethora of sites with sheep farming data, programs focusing on small-flock producers, as well as comparisons with NZ and Australia. Perhaps a site like ( would have been a better choice to mention in my post, ( notes "Small producers, those owning less than 100 sheep, comprise the majority of sheep operations, but own only 17 percent of the sheep."

    US consumer demand for lamb is in decline, lamb is a comparatively expensive meat choice, and purchasing local pasture-fed lamb is a major challenge in many cities. My local market stocks NZ lamb more frequently than Washington-grown lamb, a sign perhaps of a small industry with some significant challenges.


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