In the Middle East, kefta is a food which is made by grinding meat and mixing it with an assortment of spices. The resulting seasoned meat can be shaped into meatballs or cylinders of meat which can be cooked in a wide variety of ways. Variations on kefta are common street foods in the Middle East, and they may also be served as appetizers or as a more central part of a meal. It is easy to make kefta at home, and many cooks enjoy making this simple dish at home since it allows them to adjust the spices as desired.
Beef and lamb are two common choices of meat for kefta, since cheap cuts of these meats can be readily obtained. Lean meat is preferred so that the kefta do not become too oily. Spices such as garlic, onions, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, and harissa may be added to kefta to make them savory, spicy, or even slightly sweet, depending on the region and the taste of the cook. Some cooks also make their kefta lighter by blending the meat with rice, vegetables, or bulgur wheat.
Once the meat mixture is made, it can be formed as desired and grilled, roasted, baked, broiled, boiled, fried, steamed, or poached. The cooked kefta are served with a wide variety of sauces ranging from cool yogurt and cucumber sauce to spicy sauces which are intended to burn a fiery trail into the consumer's stomach. Sides such as breads and vegetables often accompany kefta, which may be molded on sticks so that they can be eaten easily, or wrapped into various breads to make sandwiches.
There are a number of alternate names for kefta, including kofta, kufta, kafteh, keftes, cuftah, and kyuftah. This common Middle Eastern food can be found from Greece to India, as far south as Morocco and up through Eastern European countries like Romania. Ingredients beyond beef and lamb can be found as well, including seafood, eggs, goat, and vegetables like cabbage. As a street food, kefta tends to be generally dry with mild sauce, while restaurants may serve platters of kefta in a rich, liquid sauces which need to be sopped up with bread of rice.
Making kefta at home is very easy. Ground meats can be found at many markets and butchers, as can Middle Eastern spice mixes. Small kefta make great appetizers for Middle Eastern themed meals, and you can also make larger varieties to use as entrees, perhaps wrapped in a Middle Eastern bread or served on rice or lentils.