Armenian Kofta with Mashed Potato, Pine Nuts, and Raisins

Armenian Kofta with Mashed Potato, Pine Nuts, and Raisins

Yael Goldstein Love’s

Armenian Kofta with Mashed Potato, Pine Nuts, and Raisins 

THE PASSION OF TASHA DARSKY


For someone who lists “eating” as her only hobby, I turn out not to write about food very often.  On the rare occasions when food does make its way into my writing, I like to make the most of the confluence by test-running everything in my kitchen before it hits the page.

So when I started writing the scene in The Passion of Tasha Darsky in which Tasha surprises Jean Paul by cooking an Armenian feast, culled from his mother’s handmade cookbook, I turned to one of my own all-time favorite cookbooks, Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Unfortunately, after a wonderful afternoon of cooking, a wonderful evening of eating, and a wonderful week of eating leftovers, I finally came to the conclusion that none of these wonderful dishes were going to make their way into my chapter. The scene was too emotionally delicate to risk drowning it in culinary detail. I limited myself to describing the smell of the food, which was just enough to inject the sensory experience into the reader’s imagination, and kept the rest of the information about the new dishes I had learned to myself.

One of those dishes, an Armenian kofta, ended up becoming a regular in my repertoire.  These sweet-and-savory, lightly breaded meatballs are great for parties and also make great appetizers.  I sometimes cook them without the raisins (I find I taste the pine nuts better that way, and the contrast between the pine nuts and lamb is more interesting to me than that between the raisins and lamb) but most people I’ve cooked them for seem to prefer them with the raisins left in.  Hope you enjoy them!

Armenian Kofta with Mashed Potato, Pine Nuts, and Raisins

From The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden (Knopf, 2000)

1 mealy potato, such as a Russet, weighing about 12 ounces
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 pound ground lamb or veal
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup black or golden raisins
Flour for dredging
Vegetable oil for frying

  1. Peel and boil the potato in salted water until tender, 20-30 minutes, and then drain.  Put it back in the pan, mash it, and dry it out thoroughly over medium heat.
  2. Fry the pine nuts over medium-low heat in a drop of oil, shaking the pan to brown them lightly all over.
  3. Using your hands or a spoon, mix the ground meat with the mashed potato and add the egg, salt, and pepper.  Knead vigorously by hand until well mixed and smooth. Work the pine nuts and raisins into the meat-and-potato mixture.
  4. Shape mixture into walnut-sized balls, and flatten them slightly. Dip the patties in flour to coat them lightly all over. Pour about 2 inches of oil into a 12-inch skillet, and heat to medium-hot. Deep-fry half of the patties, turning them over once, until crisp and brown.  Repeat with remaining patties. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

Yield:  16-18 small patties, serves 4-6 as an appetizer