Kufte: Azerbaijan meatball soup.
This is a fabulous soup that is really more of a main meal. It certainly makes a hearty lunch, especially when served with crusty bread to mop up the soup. A simple watercress salad is an excellent accompaniment, particularly since it is an ingredient which is very popular in Azerbaijan.
Walnuts are an often-used ingredient in Azerbaijan and adding them to the watercress salad is perfect.
One of the wonderful things about this recipe is that it’s so adaptable. Traditionally minced lamb is used for the meatballs but beef can be substituted. A wide variety of herbs are grown in Azerbaijan and I like to add a little basil, which goes wonderfully well with the tomato-ey soup. But choose your favourite flavours.
This recipe serves four people and in Azerbaijan the meat mixture is formed into four large meatballs – about the sizer of an orange – one for each diner. On each plate is one meatball and one potato. But there’s no reason why you can’t make the meatballs smaller to reduce the cooking time a little and add more spuds.
And if you’re looking to make the soup even more filling, simply add more potatoes to the following recipe.
- 1 cup canned or pre-cooked chickpeas
- 1 lb ground meat
- 1 onion, grated
- 1 egg
- Scant ½ cup rice
- Mint or the herb of your choice
- Black pepper
- Large knob butter
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 4 potatoes, peeled
- Quarter teaspoon turmeric
- Fresh coriander
- Mix together the minced meat, onion, egg, rice salt, pepper and herb.
- Form into meatballs and set aside.
- Heat the butter in a saucepan. Add the tomato paste and cook for a few seconds, stirring.
- Add seven cups of water and bring to the boil.
- Turn down the heat and add the meatballs.
- Cook gently for 10-15 minutes.
- Add the potatoes and the turmeric and bring to the boil.
- Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes.
- Add the cooked or canned chickpeas.
- Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with bread.
Note that in Azerbaijan, cooks add a dried sour plum to each meatball, pressing it into the centre then sealing it in. I’ve never been able to buy these locally so if you try it, let me know the results!