When it comes to Lebanese appetizers, it’s key to know that they can serve as main courses as well. All that matters is that they are prepared according to old Arabic traditions, which today continue to mix an immensely rich variety of spices in a single dish.
Among the most common Lebanese appetizers is the so-called kofta, which is a warm oven-baked appetizer consisting of mince. Before learning to make kofta, we must note that ras el hanoutis is mandatory for its preparation. This is a premade mixture of spices, including turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg and others.
Since it's not at all easy to find this typical Arabic spice mixture in stores you can make it yourself by blending a pinch of each of the above listed spices. You can use lamb or veal mince but never use pork.
At least that's how they make it according to all Arabic kofta recipes, the reason being that the prophet Muhammad prohibited the consumption of pork. Also, when making kofta, potatoes, tomatoes and pine nuts can be left out but the most important feature is the proper seasoning with ras el hanoutis. Here is the actual kofta recipe:
Kofta (oven baked mince, served as an appetizer in Arabic countries and especially Lebanon)
Ingredients: 26.5 oz lamb mince, 4/5 cup tomato paste, 2 potatoes, 2 onion heads, 4 tomatoes, 1 lemon, 1 tbsp butter, 1/5 cup pine nuts, several bunches of fresh parsley and fresh coriander, 2 tbsp ras el hanoutis, 5 tbsp olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste.
Preparation: Combine the mince with the finely chopped onions, coriander and parsley in a bowl and season with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt to taste and ras el hanoutis. Stir very thoroughly and leave it to sit for at least 30 min. so that it takes in all of the spices' flavors.
Smear the oven dish in which you intend to bake the mince with butter and then pour the mince in it. Bake in a preheated 390°F (200°C) oven for 20 min.
Separately make a sauce from the tomato paste, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste. Leave it to simmer on the stove for 10 min. while stirring constantly.
Peel the potatoes, cut them into slices and braise them in oil. Arrange them on top of the baked mince, place roundly sliced tomatoes on top, pour the tomato sauce over everything, sprinkle with the nuts and bake another 15 min. in a preheated 390°F (200°C) oven once again. Thus prepared kofta is ready to serve.
Also try: quick kofta kebab, kofta tajine, Arabic kebab, Eastern appetizer, hummus with eggplant.