Today’s recipe is for kufte-bozbash, more commonly called just kufte. This is one of the staples of Azerbaijani cuisine. Jumbo apple-size meatballs cooked in a simple broth with chickpeas and potatoes.
Kufte is the Azerbaijani word for meatball. The word kufte is derived from the Persian “koftan,” which means “to pound.” The name reflects the general method of preparation of kufte: They are formed by pounding the meat to incorporate it with additional ingredients, then shaped into meatballs, small or big. I’ll talk about some other varities of kufte dishes in my book, but today let’s talk about kufte-bozbash.
So what’s in these jumbo meatballs? Meat, which can be lamb or beef, onion, egg, salt, and pepper. In our family we also add crushed dried mint (nane), dried summer savory (merze), and dried basil (agh reyhan). Adding dried herbs is common in the regions of Nakhchivan, while Bakuvians, on the other hand, do not add any herbs at all. I personally like my meatballs with dried herbs. Makes them so much more flavorful. My Ordubadi grandmother used to make meatballs that way and so does my mother. I follow in their footsteps. I am lucky – I brought my dried herbs from Azerbaijan. They smell heavenly. And so does the kufte-bozbash I make using these herbs.
Also. Each meatball is stuffed with a small dried sour plum (available in Persian/Middle Eastern markets), in part because sour fruits are believed to help with the digestion of the meat, and also because a tart fruit adds a nice bright flavor to the rich meat. If cherry plums or other varieties of small sour plums are in season, you can stuff the meatballs with the fresh fruit instead of dried ones.
Nush olsun! Enjoy!