As most of us (me included) lack the discipline, time and immediate availability of certain specialised ingredients, I have lovingly dedicated some cooking hours to figuring out a simplified version of one of my favourites.
Here is my lighter, pescatarian version of a traditional Iranian lamb dish. It combines the tangy sweet and sour flavour of the pomegranate molasses with the delicate fish and a soft crunch of the pistachios in significantly less kitchen time. A fantastic dish to share with friends this can be prepped ahead of time and served with a grain and a crisp salad. Or a miniature version makes a great canapé served with a cocktail.
I know the title of this dish doesn’t rank highly on the sexy scale, but I assure you every bite will be a party in your mouth. These glisteningly delicious and more-ish fish balls (Kofte is their Persian name and really sounds a lot more appealing) also soothe the meal planning headache by falling into the “do ahead” category. I often make the mixture up to a day ahead and leave it in the fridge to mellow until I am ready to roll and roast. I use a food processor for ease, but have also been known to chop everything by hand, which by the way is an extremely meditative exercise.
I have adapted this recipe from the pages of what is considered to be THE Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian cooking bible, THE FOOD OF LIFE by Najmieh Batmanglij. If you want to know about the food of the region, this is really all you will ever need. It’s a beautifully written compendium of the food and traditions and will invite you into her den of colour, flavour and celebration.
You can make a carnivorous version of these with lamb or chicken. Simply replace the fish quantity with 1kg ground meat. Make the pistachio paste in the magimix and then tip into a bowl with the meat and add the egg. You will also need to increase the cooking time to 20 minutes in total before adding the glaze for the final few minutes of glossing.
For the Kofta
- 500g cod or hake fillet, skinned
- 500g salmon fillet, skinned
- 3 spring onions (or 1 medium onion), roughly chopped
- 120g toasted pistachios
- 40g breadcrumbs
- 25g bunch parsley
- 15g tarragon leaves
- 15g dill leaves
- 1 tbsp lime juice (approximately 2 limes) + zest of one lime
- 1 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes (or 3/4tsp chilli flakes)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- salt & pepper
- 1tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 egg
For the Glaze
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 125ml pomegranate molasses
- 150g honey
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes (or 1/2 tsp chili flakes)
- juice 1/2 lemon
- Sprinkling of pomegranate seeds and chopped toasted pistachios
Cut the fish into roughly 5cm cubes (you do not need to be exact here – they need to be smallish chunks) ready for the food processor. Leave to one side while you start to chop all the other ingredients for the mixture.
In the bowl of your food processor, blitz together the chopped spring onions (or onion), toasted pistachios, breadcrumbs, parsley, tarragon, dill, lime juice and zest, Aleppo pepper, cumin, salt and pepper and 1/2tbsp olive oil until it forms a rough paste.
Add the chopped fish fillets and pulse until the mixture is well blended but still with a little texture (do not keep the motor running or it will turn too much to mush and that will give you dense balls).
Tip the pink and green mixture into a mixing bowl and crack the egg in, gently incorporating it with a rubber spatula, or as we prefer, by hand. Try not to crush everything – you do not want the mixture to be too packed together. Cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight to allow the flavours to hang out with each other before cooking.
When you are ready to cook the dish, preheat your oven to 250F (fan) and take out an oven-to-table safe baking/roasting dish or sauté pan (approx 35cm x 25cm or 30cm round).
Take the fish mixture out of the fridge and roll ping pong sized balls. Once they are all rolled and fitting snugly together in your baking dish, drizzle with the remaining 1/2tbsp olive oil and giggle around so they are covered in a thin film of oil to stop them sticking.
Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients together for the glaze in a small saucepan and gently simmer until the honey and pomegranate molasses have melted together. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Once simmering and saucy, remove from the heat.
When the oven is hot, bake the fish balls for 5 minutes, before carefully and gently turning over to brown the other side and return to the oven for another 3 minutes. Once lightly browned, pour the glaze over the top of the balls (you may need to heat it up again for another minute if it has thickened too much while waiting for the fish to cook). Rotate the pan (swirling it ever so slightly) so the sauce reaches into all the corners and return to the oven for another 3 minutes until it is bubbling, darkened and coating everything.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios for garnish if desired.
This is delicious served with party rice and herb salad.
Have you made this dish?
Let me know what you think, share your efforts and any tweaks you made to the recipe on Instagram, don’t forget to tag #BuildingFeasts or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org