Join The National and Table Tales on a culinary journey around the Middle East to savour the quintessential dishes that embody the spirit of Ramadan. From table staples to family favourites, this series of recipes – one for each day of Ramadan – pays homage to the holy month and the home cook alike.
No culinary tour of Turkey would be complete without a visit to a lokanta. These Ottoman-era establishments were originally created to serve simple but healthy midday meals to tradesmen. In their current iteration, they dish up freshly cooked traditional dishes simmered to deliciousness.
Recipe contributor Emel Mubarak says this dish reminds her of the lokantas of Istanbul, “which offer fresh home-style cooking and a lively atmosphere”.
“They start cooking the food daily in the morning, and shut shop as soon as stocks run out, which is usually by the afternoon. The food is prepared in large metal pots placed in a cooker lined with firebricks, akin to a pizza oven. When the dish is half-cooked, the chef turns off the heat and allows the pot to simmer slowly.”
The main principle of the lokanta, as noted by writer Umur Talu in photographer Riza Erdegirmenci's book Lokanta, "is that you should feel at home".
The recipe is said to have been conceived for skilled Ottoman general Hasan Pasha, whose cooks reimagined the traditionally rich Turkish kofte to suit the household’s more health-conscious guests.
Emel Mubarak's hasanpasa koftesi
Serves 6 to 8
Ingredients for the kofte:
- 500g minced beef
- 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
- 1 medium yellow onion, grated
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- ½ bunch parsley, chopped
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ½ tsp seven spice
- Salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for the mashed potatoes:
- 3-4 russet potatoes, peeled
- ½ cup milk or double cream
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 cup Kashkaval cheese, grated and divided
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- Salt and white pepper, to taste
Ingredients for the tomato sauce:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Method for the kofte:
- In a bowl, combine the ground beef, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, parsley, egg, seven spice, salt and pepper.
- Take egg-sized pieces from the meat mixture and form into balls, then flatten on the bottom and form a slight indent on the top.
- Place the kofte in a baking dish and bake in an oven at 180°C for 20 to 25 minutes.
Method for the mashed potatoes:
- Cut the potatoes into large pieces and place in a saucepan covered with water, over high heat to boil. Strain the potatoes and return to a bowl.
- Add the milk or cream, butter, cheese, nutmeg, salt and white pepper and mash them.
- Place the mashed potatoes into a piping bag with a fluted tip and squeeze on to the top of the kofte. Alternatively, spoon over the kofte.
Method for the tomato sauce:
- Heat the oil in a saucepan. Mix in all the ingredients. Add one and a half cups of water and bring to a boil. If too thick, add more water.
- Pour the tomato sauce over the mashed potato-topped kofte, sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
- Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese starts to melt.
- Serve warm with a side of vermicelli rice.
This dish has been brought to you by Emel Mubarak and curated by international recipe hunter Hanan Sayed Worrell, author of Table Tales: The Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi. The Table Tales concept celebrates the people and stories that give flavour to recipes of the Middle East.