This old family recipe is the epitome of comfort food done right. And by right, I mean out of this world delicious and full of good for you ingredients! And also, just right.
When I was little I used to take my palm and rub my nose in my sleep. Really, really hard. “Bita! Don’t make your nose into a koofteh!” I’d hear my mom tell me in Farsi.
Yep, a koofteh is a Persian meatball and while I’m happy to say that I love said meatballs, my nose is still, simply a boring human nose.
Persian meatballs aren’t your regular run-of-the-mill—though also pretty delicious in their own right—meatballs. They are about the size of a baseball and they contain a ton of wonderfully tasty ingredients that you definitely wouldn’t find in a typical meatball (i.e. yellow split peas, green onion, turmeric, savory, basmati rice, and big time etc…).
And in the middle of each meatball, a surprise! How fun is that?! You can put dried plums and/or dates in the middle and it makes for a nice sweet and savory combo that’s unbeatable. So like, a meatball piñata. But instead of candy, it’s dried fruit. And instead of cardboard in the shape of a meatball, it’s actually beef.
Hmph. I could not make that sound worse. I always do this to myself. I’m telling you guys, it’s utterly delightful and one of my favorite foods of all time.
When I was little—One sec. I promise, even though it looks like it, I’m not just recycling the story I told you above about that other time when I was little.
When I was little, I actually didn’t like sweet things much, if at all, and so my mom would put solely the dried plums in my meatballs, and no dates. But because you don’t know what you’re going to get until you open the meatball, she’d make mine much smaller than all the other meatballs to differentiate.
I was the baby of the family, and for some reason, claiming the baby meatballs made me way happier than if someone were to offer me half a dozen warm chocolate chip cookies instead.
To be honest, I would’ve chosen a pomegranate over those cookies. And I still probably would.
Anyway, these meatballs are served in the best broth you will ever taste, I promise.
You first eat the broth like a soup on its own, with some fresh mint and some fresh warm bread torn into it.
Then once you’ve devoured that, you pick a meatball, take some of the freshly stewed tomatoes and softened potatoes that have soaked up all the incredible flavor from the broth in which they were cooking, take some hard-boiled egg, and eat it all with some bread. Some fresh herbs on the side just make the experience that much better, tastier, and healthier because they help the digestion process.
It’s essentially hitting all your flavor taste buds and it’s got a crazy amount of beautiful, healthy ingredients. I’m in love with this dish. I can’t say enough. So I won’t.
But give it a go, don’t be afraid, and noushejaan (nourishment to your soul)!
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- 6 Eggs, divided
- ¼ cup Yellow Split Peas, rinsed
- ¼ cup Basmati Rice, rinsed until water runs a bit clearer
- 1 handful Cilantro, rinsed and largest stems cut off
- 1 handful Parsley, rinsed and largest stems cut off
- 1 handful Green Onion, rinsed and cut into thirds
- 1 and ½ large Onions, divided (1 onion is to be chopped and the other ½ onion is to be grated)
- 5 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 ½ pounds Ground Sirloin Beef (90% lean)
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric Powder, divided
- 3 ½ teaspoons Sea Salt, divided
- 1 ½ teaspoons Black Pepper, divided
- 1 teaspoon Dried Savory (Marzeh in Farsi), divided
- 2 teaspoons Dried Mint, divided
- 5 Dates, pitted
- 5 ounces Dried & Pitted Plums (approximately 20), divided
- 4 heaping tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 2 Russet Potatoes, cut into approximately 2-inch square chunks (or cut into 6ths)
- 3 med-large Tomatoes, cut into fourths
- 1 handful Fresh Mint Leaves, roughly chopped or torn
- Warm Pita bread for serving
- Optional: Fresh Herbs for serving (e.g. cilantro, mint, radish, basil, green onion)
- Hard boil 5 eggs by placing them in a large pot, add cold water to completely cover the eggs and place on high heat.
- Once it’s at a rolling boil, remove pot from heat and cover for 8 min.
- Rinse with cold water, peel, and cut in half.
- These will be served with the meatballs.
- Put yellow split peas into a small rice cooker or small pot.
- Add enough water to cover the yellow split peas to an inch over the peas.
- Add ½ teaspoon salt, mix, and turn on rice cooker (or cook on med-high heat if using a small pot) for about 15 minutes or until just barely cooked. If you’re worried about the yellow split peas boiling over, place a wooden spatula over the top of the pot. This will ensure that it won’t boil over. Skim off any released foam from the top of the water.
- Add the rice when yellow split peas are just barely cooked.
- Cook the rice for about 15 minutes or until the water is all soaked up and the rice is tender.
- Put cilantro, parsley, and green onion into a food processor. Chop finely in the food processor. It should amount to about ½ cup of chopped herbs.
- Fry the chopped onion in a large pot on med-high heat in about 5 tablespoons of olive oil, mixing occasionally to keep the onion from burning.
- Once fried (it’ll take about 10 minutes), remove pot from heat, move onions to one side of the pot, and tilt the pot to drain the excess oil. You can get rid of this excess oil, leaving the onions in the pot.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the beef, grated onion, ½ teaspoon turmeric, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoons pepper, ½ teaspoon dried savory, 1 teaspoon dried mint, and the chopped herb mixture (cilantro, parsley, and green onion), the yellow split pea and rice mixture (add enough to equal half of the amount of beef, and no more), and 1 raw egg.
- Use a fork to first whisk the egg a bit before using your hands to mix everything together. You need to really mix everything well, working the mixture with your hands for a few minutes until it starts to stick to your hands. This helps the meatball keep its shape during the cooking process.
- Make compact baseball-sized meatballs and place 2 dates/plums in the middle of each. This should make about 5 meatballs.
- Add 3 cups of water to the large pot containing the fried onion.
- Mix in tomato paste, ½ teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon dried mint, and ½ teaspoon dried savory.
- Carefully add in the meatballs. The broth should come up about ⅓ of the way up the meatballs.
- Cover the pot and cook on med-low heat until cooked through (about 30 minutes) and don’t open the cover until the 30 minutes point in order to keep in the heat and prevent evaporation.
- Then remove the cover and add in tomatoes, potatoes, and remainder of dried plums.
- Add more water to come up to ¾ the height of the meatballs.
- Simmer for about 20-25 minutes on medium/med-low (or until potatoes are soft) before serving.
- The broth is traditionally served first, like a soup. It’s topped with torn, fresh mint and torn, warm bread. Then the meatballs are served with the potato, tomato, and egg, and eaten with bread and perhaps even some fresh herbs. Enjoy!