Koofteh Berenji is a traditional Iranian cuisine, originating from Azerbaijan and Turkic cultures in northern regions of Iran. Koofteh in general is a family of foods, each differing only in their main ingredients.
Koofteh Berenji consists mostly of rice, as the name Berenj (meaning rice) indicates, ground meat, and split peas.
Aromatic herbs are inseparable from Iranian cuisine, and this meal is no exception. You can either use fresh or dried herbs. You’re going to need tarragon, dill, coriander, savory, mint, and green onion. The proportion can change depending on your taste.
This type of Koofteh can be stuffed with sautéed onions, walnuts, or a prune in the middle, but you can skip this step if you don’t like them.
This is a nutritionally rich dish, packed with carbohydrates that can give you a lot of energy, so it’s better to eat this food as lunch. It’s also served with a special sauce, which you will learn further down this recipe.
Making Koofteh Berenji isn’t a complicated task, but you need to know some tips and tricks in order to avoid the meatballs from loosening and falling apart. I will explain those tips in this post.
Step 1- Preparation
Wash and soak the rice for 30 minutes with some salt. It’s better to soak the split peas overnight to degas them.
Step 2- Boil the rice and Split peas
In separate pots, boil the Split peas and rice. The water level for rice should only be one knuckle above its surface. Add some salt and oil as well. You can add some turmeric and some dried herbs to your boiling rice for a more refined taste. When you drain the rice, save some of the water for making the sauce in later steps.
Step 3- Grind the primary ingredients
Pour the cooked rice and split peas into the food processor and mix them a little. You don’t need to go all out with this step, just make sure they’re incorporated and soft in the end. This will make your Koofteh firmer and more beautiful while serving.
If you don’t have access to a food processor, you can just mush the ingredients with your hands.
Step 4- Mix the ingredients
Add ground meat, egg, aromatic herbs, spices of choice, and gram flour to the rice-split pea paste-like mixture. Grate an onion, and juice it before adding it to your mixture. The excess water can destabilize your meatballs.
Step 5- Knead the mixture
This is a key part of any type of Koofteh. You should use your hands and knead the mixture until all the ingredients are incorporated, and the final paste is perfectly smooth and consistent. One way to achieve this is to throw the paste against the bowl a few times. This step will need some strength, but it will greatly contribute to the meatballs not falling apart later. You know the paste is ready when it starts to stick to your hands!
Step 6- Cool the paste
Let your Koofteh paste rest in the fridge for an hour until it cools down.
Step 7- Prepare the sauce
While you’re waiting for the paste to cool and harden, prepare the sauce. Fine dice the onion and Sauté in a pot. Then, add the tomato paste, salt, pepper, and turmeric. You can add some grated tomato as well. Add water or rice water (saved from step 2) and let the sauce boil over low heat.
Keep in mind that the Koofteh Berenji will cook in this sauce, so the amount should be enough to cover the tennis ball-sized meatballs.
Step 8- Prepare the meatballs
Fill a bowl with lukewarm water. Soak your hands in it and grab a suitable amount of Koofteh paste. The water prevents the paste from sticking to your hand. If you want to stuff the Koofteh, spread the paste slightly on your palm. Put a plum, sautéed walnut, or sautéed onion in the middle. Some even put a whole hard-boiled egg inside a Koofteh ball. You just need to grab enough paste accordingly. Shape the paste into a ball and smooth it over.
Step 9- Cook your Koofteh
Gently place the meatballs inside the boiling sauce. Let them boil over medium heat.
It’s better not to close the pot’s lid fully, so make sure the sauce has enough water. After an hour, the sauce thickens and your Koofteh Berenji is ready!
- Soaking your hands and carefully rounding the meatballs is essential for the Koofteh to keep a firm shape. Don’t leave any open gaps.
Koofteh, also called Persian meatball, is a traditional Persian cuisine. It can have different types considering the main ingredients, Koofteh Berenji or Rice meatballs being one.
It’s also very easy to make. With simple ingredients and knowing a few tips and tricks, you can make a beautiful, delicious authentic Persian dish.