Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Bahçevan Köftesi or Gardener's Meatballs

Back from London and back to much simpler fare! But also back to much warmer temperatures, blue skies, and what’s more, NO RAIN!

bahçevan köftesi/gardener's meatballs

So here we are again in Istanbul:
This year’s snail-like advance into spring still signifies a giant leap forward in terms of vegetables. I feel like saying a heartfelt so long, farewell to spinach and turp or turnips, for example, and can hardly wait for those summer courgettes, aubergines and especially those big fat juicy tomatoes. But I am too impatient: still a bit to go before those appear.

a typical selection of tencere yemek
 at a little place in Beyoğlu

This recipe is one of those veggie combos that Turkish cuisine excels at.  Those of us who live in Turkey are familiar with colourful local esnaf restaurants that serve tencere yemek or trayfuls of different dishes and display them with joy in their windows at lunchtime. This dish is like one of those: eminently expandable, economical, and with a taste that gets better the longer it waits.

 think the name of it, Bahçevan Köftesi – Gardener’s Meatballs -  just sounds so fresh and appetizing, a joy not only to behold but to eat after our weeks, no months, of lentils, chickpeas and the like!  You will also see the very similar Bahçevan Kebabı made with small pieces of lamb or mutton instead of the köfte.

Ingredients for Bahçevan Köftesi or Gardener’s Meatballs
(adapted from 'Cibalikapı - a traditional Istanbul tavern')

Serves 6

200g minced beef or lamb

1 small onion, finely chopped in the food processor

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 sprigs parsley, chopped finely

1 egg

2 tbsp finely crushed breadcrumbs

1 tbsp breadcrumbs

⅛ tsp cumin/kimyon

⅛ tsp red pepper flakes/pul biberi

⅛ tsp allspice/yeni bahar

⅛ tsp dried thyme/kekik

Freshly ground black pepper and salt

For the stew:

1 med potato, cubed

1 med aubergine, peeled in strips and chopped in chunks

1 med onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 med carrot, diced

preparing the vegetables

1 tsp tomato paste/domates salçası

2 med tomatoes, chopped (I used a jar of my own bottled tomatoes)

1 lt/4 cups hot water

¼ cup cooked peas (fresh, tinned or frozen)

2 long green peppers (çarliston biberi), seeds removed, chopped

Olive oil for frying


·        Pre-heat oven to 180°C/350°F.

·        Place meat and onion in a mixing bowl. Add garlic, spices, egg, breadcrumbs, and parsley.

all the ingredients for the köfte

Knead ingredients together well. Form meatballs by rolling into walnut-sized balls. Place onto a greased oven tray and bake for 20 mins.

about to go in the oven

·        NB You could also fry the meatballs if you prefer.

For the stew:

·        Fry potato and aubergine in hot oil then set aside.

like this

Fry onion in the same olive oil until golden.  You may have to add more oil. Add garlic, stir and add carrots. Sweat carrots a bit, add tomato paste and cubed tomatoes and continue to stir. After vegetables absorb tomato paste, add water and cook for 10 mins. Add peas and green pepper, and cook for 5-10 mins. Transfer vegetables and liquid to an ovenproof serving dish, and add the meatballs.

here it all is

·        Bake for 20 mins and let stand for 10 mins before serving. The excess liquid will be absorbed.

·        Serve with rice and salad.

delicious gardener's köfte


1.     I thought the liquid was going to be far too much but after I let the dish sit for a while, it was nicely absorbed into the meat and vegetables.

2.     I think the recipe is too fastidious in specifying ⅛ tsp for all those spices. Use your judgment and add accordingly. You will know instinctively just how much to add.
This is an easy and tasty dish that the family will love! Try it, why don't you?

Afiyet olsun!