Meet Balls (Qofte), a Family Recipe

Cookbooks are rarely found in Albanian households and recipes are a family heritage. There are no secrets, but each traditional dish changes slightly in the hands of the head-cook {the mother); at times heavy on the mint and at others lenient on the salt. Common to every household is a personalized but commonly recognizable recipe for" kos" or yogurt, flaky/" byrek", the Albanian version of mac & cheese ‘‘pasticcio'' or meat balls called "qofte", as we will describe below.


(10-15 portions):

200 grams of ground beef

2 small onions diced fine
1 garlic clove minced
2 fresh eggs
2 slices of dried/stale white bread
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons dried mint or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon dried oregano
enough extra virgin olive oil for light frying

1. In a large bowl mix together ground beef with onion, garlic herbs and spices. Your hands are the most efficient and effective tool to do this.

2. One at a time, add eggs and mix until incorporated.

3. Fill a bowl with water and add stale bread. Let sit for 1 minute and remove. Squeeze out access water, break apart while adding to the meat mixture. Add more bread if mixture is too wet. Correct consistency will not stick to fingers and compact patties can be formed.

4. Add oil to frying pan, deep about 1/2 inch. Heat oil in pan on medium heat.

5. Begin forming either patties about the size of your palm or links about 4-5 inches long. Add to oil and fry until brown (approximately 3-4 minutes), flipping or adjusting as needed to cook properly on all sides. Remove to cool. Sprinkle with extra salt if needed.

These meat balls, patties or links are found year-round in every household. A slightly different version can be found sold by vendors along the main streets of most Albanian towns and cities such as Durazzo, Tirana, Elbasan, Vlora, Shkoder, Saranda, etc. But the best are the homemade versions accompanied by fresh-made yogurt or tarator, salad, white rice or a hunk of cheese (feta is the Greek version or any other fresh cheese made from goat or sheep's milk "gjize"). Rarely will you find genuine Albanian "qofte" made with cheese mixed into the meat mix, but again, each family's personalized additions is what makes this recipe so heart-warmingly versatile and familiar.
Meet Balls (Qofte), a Family Recipe Meet Balls (Qofte), a Family Recipe Friday, January 15, 2016 Rating: 5
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