Camel kofta, or meatballs, with tahini sauce, are sure to be a crowd-pleaser. This is an easy, quick weeknight dinner recipe to try at home if you have access to camel meat.
Historically, camels were extremely important to the peoples of the Middle East. They functioned as transportation, carried goods across thousands of kilometres of harsh desert, and often provided meat and sustenance. In modern times, camels are relegated to the countryside and to remote bedouin communities where they are still prized as an important life-sustaining resource. Growing up in the Middle East, I saw a lot of camels usually at tourist sites or occasionally in the desert grazing near a remote settlement. I only rode camels when visiting the Pyramids in Egypt, and then only for photography purposes.
And yet, one of the most annoying experiences of my childhood and adolescence was getting asked by kids from Western countries whenever I traveled or interacted with them outside of Egypt, “So, do you ride camels to school?” I absolutely hated that question. I would painstakingly describe to the questioner how, no, Cairo is actually a very busy city and we get around in cars, trains and buses like everywhere else in the world. Much later as an adult, I realized it wasn’t their fault; Western media has long portrayed places like Egypt like this:
You can’t blame a child who grew up seeing this in every single brochure, flyer, picture or movie about Egypt. Little do they know that if the photo frame were a little wider, you would probably be able to see the smoggy, overcrowded, concrete jungle of the enormous Cairo metropolis. Until recently, I had never even tasted camel meat. It wasn’t until I’d moved to Canada (of all places) that I finally found ground camel meat and thought I’d give it a try.
I decided to make something not too tricky that would help me decided whether I liked camel meat or not. I’d heard a lot about how the meat is tough and doesn’t taste that great, so I was a bit wary of getting cuts I’d never tried before and making a mess of things. So ground meat seemed a safe bet. Of course, being Egyptian, I had to make kofta, or meatballs out of it. The results were glorious! Turns out that camel meat tastes almost like a combination of lamb and beef, and makes really great koftas. I’m sure even the pickiest eater around would absolutely love these!
- 900 grams of ground camel meat
- 1/2 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika.
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin, chilli flakes.
- 1/2 teaspoon of fine salt
- 2 teaspoons of Jamaican-style jerk seasoning if using paste seasoning, or 1 teaspoon if using powdered seasoning.
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- To serve: 2 pita bread loaves.
- For the tahina sauce (or tahini as English-speakers call it): 3 tablespoons tahini paste, 1/4 cup room temperature water, 2 crushed garlic cloves, pinch of cumin and salt to taste.
- For salad: 3 stalks spring onions, one tomato, 3 romaine lettuce leaves
- Mix the minced meat with the spices and the jerk seasoning very thoroughly. If you have a meat mincer or food processor, you can mix it in there. I mixed it by hand since I own neither.
- Heat the oil up in a cast iron pan on medium-high heat.
- Shape the meat into slightly longish meatballs, once the oil is hot gently drop them into the pan.
- Turn them gently on each side until they’re browned on all sides. Turn down the heat to medium and cook them for another 6-7 minutes.
- Remove from heat and place on a paper towel to drain the excess fat.
- To make the tahini sauce: add the water very, very slowly until it’s the consistency of mustard. It will get thicker at first, but as you add more water the consistency will loosen up. Add the spices, garlic and salt. Mix thoroughly.
- You can assemble them as sandwiches where you put a kofta in a pita pocket, add some tahini sauce, chopped salad veggies or pickles. Enjoy!!!
Have you ever tried eating camel meat? What cuts did you use and how did you find it? Let me know in the comments!
© 2019, L.E.. All rights reserved.