At least once a week, my mother makes us kofta (Arabic for ‘meatloaf’). No, she doesn’t roll it up in individual bite-sized balls, nor does she fry it like they used to do in the good old days. “That’s too time-consuming”, she says nowadays. And she’s absolutely right. Why complicate a perfectly tasty and simple recipe that works just as well flattened out and baked as a whole?
Until not too long ago, this simple kofta recipe involved a few other ingredients and an additional step. My mother would soak two loaves of bread into milk and then mix that in with the rest of the ingredients. Two little problems: I wasn’t a fan of the added simple carbs from the bread sneaking into my meaty dinner (yes, even the ‘whole-wheat’ kind spikes up blood sugar, and together with the meat, it makes it easier to pack on the pounds). The second issue was that my husband Sherif doesn’t handle cooked dairy that well (raw dairy doesn’t affect him though!). One day as we were all chewing on our meatloaf during dinnertime, this revolutionary thought occurred to me: “why don’t we just eliminate the offending ingredients? What could possibly happen?” I voiced my thoughts to my family, my eyes drifting from one person to the next as I explained the pros of nixing the bread and milk in mama’s kofta recipe. Of course, we’d keep my favorite ingredient, the parsley, because without it, the kofta would cease to be kofta and would literally take on another identity.
No one seemed to mind my experimental attitude. Next week, it was kofta day again in our household. Today would be the day we eliminate the ‘problem’ ingredients, thereby cutting our ingredient list to just 4 ingredients (not counting the salt & pepper). A four-ingredient main course is a feat to be reckoned with, especially in Middle Eastern cuisine which tends to favor the lengthy lists and extra spices.
I paid attention to every detail as I was mixing the ingredients together. The texture of the uncooked meatloaf, though ‘loafless’, was not visibly different from the one that has soaked bread in it. Bouyed by the promise of a low-carb kofta, I popped it in the oven and waited impatiently for 40 minutes until it was cooked. With the steam still rising in the air as my mitted hand grabbed it out of the oven, I cut myself a bite-sized piece to try my luck. Soft, flavorful, meaty and delicious – the kofta was not lacking in any flavor, and the elimination of the soaked bread probably brought the meat and parsley flavors to the forefront, enhancing the overall taste of the dish. Success!
Of course, we never looked back. After initially taking the credit for the altered recipe, I realized that the change I made was so simple and the leftover ingredients are so basic that I really have no right to be bragging about it. Secretly, I still feel victorious for eliminating the bread from my kofta – now, I can enjoy one of my favorite Egyptian recipes carb-free and still as tasty as ever.
Baked Kofta (Four-Ingredient, Gluten-free Meatloaf)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40-45 minutes
- 2 lbs organic, grass-fed ground beef
- 4 pastured, organic eggs, beaten
- 2 large onions or 3 medium ones
- 1 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon unrefined mineral salt (I use Himalayan)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
(1) Prepare ingredients: Thaw meat (if frozen), beat eggs, chop and puree onions, and chop parsley.
(2) Mix ingredients: In a 9-inch bakeware container (I use Pyrex), mix all the ingredients with your hand really well, until all ingredients are well integrated and evenly distributed. Flatten it out with your hand.
(3) Bake: Preheat oven to 375 F, then pop in the oven uncovered for about 40-45 minutes until cooked all the way through. You may wish to brown the top a little bit by switching to ‘broil’ but this depends on your oven, and if it’s already browned enough on the top. Don’t leave in the oven too long so it doesn’t dry out. Cut into squares and serve while hot. Enjoy!