Koofteh Berenji are Persian meatballs that are tender and mixed with an assortment of fresh herbs and rice, stuffed with raisins, and simmered in a simple tomato broth. Sponsored by Sun-Maid Raisins.
Most people familiar with Persian food think of mountains of steaming basmati rice, crowned with saffron and served with massive skewers of kabob or bowls of aromatic stews.
But there are even more fabulous and delicious meals in the Persian menu. And today I am sharing a very special dish, Koofteh Berenji, Persian meatballs with rice and raisins.
About Persian meatballs
When you think of meatballs, you probably think of golf-ball sized Italian meatballs on top of enormous pile of spaghetti. Persian meatballs are not small, but more like the size of an orange or softball.
And tucked inside each meatball is about a tablespoon of naturally sweet raisins or even a pitted date. You can also add nuts, barberries (zereshk) or caramelized onions, too.
While Italian meatballs are mixed with bread crumbs, koofteh (aka kufteh or kofteh) is mixed with cooked rice, yellow split peas, onions, and a heap of fresh herbs. The variety of herbs you choose is up to you. I chose tarragon, parsley and mint.
Another binding agent used to mix the koofteh is chickpea flour, but you can also use rice flour. So yes, these meatballs are gluten-free!
Once assembled the koofteh is placed in a simmering tomato broth. The sauce is thicker than a soup, but not as thick as an Italian marinara sauce. The meatballs slowly cook in this soup.
The soup also keeps the koofteh moist and flavorful, as well as give you something to dunk your lavaash in while munching on your meatball. This is total Persian comfort food.
How to serve koofteh berenji
We like to serve our koofteh with fresh herbs (remember sabzi khordan?), radishes and lavaash bread. Little bite sized pieces of the koofteh are placed inside the flatbread and filled with more herbs and radish slices.
And don’t forget to dunk your lavash into the tomato broth. Oh yum!
- 1lb ground meat
- 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh tarragon
- 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint
- 1 green onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup finely chopped onions, divided
- 1/4 cup rice flour or chick pea flour
- 3/4 cup of cooked basmati rice
- 1/2 cup cooked yellow split peas
- 3 tsp ground turmeric, divided
- 1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
- 3/4 tsp ground black pepper, divided
- 1/2 cup Sun-Maid Raisins
- 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 2 TBS tomato paste
- 3 cups chicken broth
- If you haven’t already, cook both the rice and lentils in separate pots. Once done, drain and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Clean, stem, and wash the herbs. Run them through a salad spinner to dry.
- Chop herbs in food processor and set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl massage meat with your hands until soft.
- Mix in 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 2 tsp turmeric and 1/2 cup chopped onions.
- Add flour into the meat mixture and work through the meat.
- Once combined, add herbs into the meat and carefully massage into the meat.
- Lastly, add rice, split peas and green onions into the meat mixture and combine until all ingredients are incorporated evenly.
- Divide meat into 6-8 even portions. Koofteh are large meatballs, so do not be alarmed at the size.
- Roll each portion into a ball and set aside.
- Using your finger, press a hole into the center of each meatball making a well. Fill the well with approximately 1 tablespoon of raisins.
- Close up the meatball and roll until smooth. Stuff all the meatballs in this fashion and set aside.
- To make the tomato broth heat a large Dutch oven over high heat and add olive oil.
- Add 1/2 cup chopped onions and sauté until softens, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium stir in 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.
- Stir in tomato paste and broth. Whisk the mixture until the tomato paste is incorporated into the broth.
- Bring broth to boil then carefully place meatball into the soup.
- Reduce heat to low, cover pot and cook for about 45 minutes until meatballs are done.
- About halfway through, turn meatballs over and continue cooking.
- Serve with fresh herbs, radishes and lavash bread.
You can also stuff koofteh with chopped dried fruits like apricots, dates or sour plums.
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Serving Size:1 meatball
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 276 Total Fat: 11g Saturated Fat: 3g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 6g Cholesterol: 42mg Sodium: 684mg Carbohydrates: 27g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 4g Sugar: 9g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 18g