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Silver Birch Smoked Lamb Koftas with Peppers and Pitta Bread

I had just got back from holiday in South Devon where I was without barbecue my barbecue for over two week. During this time I managed to just about stave off going cold turkey/ [insert other type of meat here] with a visit to the Pig and Pallet in Topsham and some samples I managed to seize from the excellent demo chefs at the Exeter Food Festival. One such demo was Marcus Bawdon of Country Wood Smoke who did some very simple but delicious lamb koftas. On my return from Devon and lacking any other such inspiration with some guests over I decided that this was the best option and having seen it done and tasted the results there was little to go wrong.

Whilst Marcus used a pre-made rub for the kofta mix I used a homemade rub, which for a change I actually wrote down...with the amounts I used (see below).

I used about 1/2 to 2/3 of the spice mixture below with about 750g of 20% lamb mince. I worked the rub into the lamb mince with my fingers until it was well mixed in and the mince had lost it's 'mince like' texture. I left it for an hour or so whilst I fired up the Weber with charcoal to cook as a two-zone, allowing direct heat with food placed above it and indirect heat with the food offset. I then took an amount of the lamb-rub mixture about the size of a gold ball and rolled it into a ball shape, then moulded it into an oval shape before finally pressing a dimple into the middle of the kofta with my thumb. This makes the kofta slightly concave on one side and, according to Marcus in his demo, means the kofta will cook more evenly as the meat in the middle expands.

I then grilled some bell peppers until charred on both sides before setting them aside and grilling the lamb koftas direct for several minutes either side until they were browning nicely. I should say at this point that once I placed them over the coals I stuck a cube of sliver birch wood on the coals to add a little smoke to the meat, and left the lid down whilst they cooked to both keep the smoke in the barbecue and help reduce flare ups from the rendered fat hitting the coals beneath.

Once the koftas were at 70C/ 160F I knew they were done, and although this is a little high for lamb I wasn't going to take any chances as these were from minced lamb and not a joint, where with the latter the risk of bacterial spoiling is less due to the interior of the meat not being exposed and the greater surface area and chance of contamination that comes with minced meat.

I then warmed up some pitta breads on the barbecue and served them with the peppers.

As accompaniments I made some yoghurt with finely chopped cucumber, mint sauce and lemon juice as well as a generous serving of sriracha.

The verdict? Despite the rub mix below being very experimental and based on a list of ingredients and no quantities from a manufactured rub, it did really well. For personal preference I might up the sumaq and lime powder next time as I like my food quite zesty and maybe add some heat in the form of chilli flakes or chilli powder, but the peppercorns gave enough heat for my guests.

Kofta Rub Mix

2 tbsp salt

2 tbsp sugar (I used demerara)

1 tbsp black peppercorns

2 x whole star anise seeds

1 tsp lime powder

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

Once I added these I blitzed them in a spice mixer, then added the rest.

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp tumeric

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp sumaq

1 tsp oregano

pinch ground cloves

pinch ground ginger

I then gave it a quick pulse in the spice mixer to mix it all together.

The reason why I did this in two phases was to get some of the larger/ whole spices blitzed down into a powder to a similar consistency as the ingredients I added in the second phase.

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