Sulu Kofte (…or how to gain 10 pounds in 4 weeks)

After some summer sun and fabulous times with family, I’m back and have lots of new recipes to share!

It’s tradition to gain weight after Ergunay family visiting. My coping strategy is to preemptively shed a couple of pounds in preparation for the onslaught of home cooking, but this time…well, let’s just say, like so many other well-intended summer projects, I didn’t get around to it and then buckled under the power and intensity of Anne’s sulu kofte.

They’re deceptively sized, full of flavor, dangerous to the waistline – as meatballs go, these are in the adorable class of kofte.  If you’re a fan of Swedish meatballs, I think you’ll like this lemony twist!  And they’re easy to make.  But I warn you, once you start, it’s difficult to stop.

Ingredients AND instructions, all meatballed-up into one…in three parts:

Part 1:

  • 3/4 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 heaping tsp black pepper
  • 1 heaping tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef
  • 1/2 cup flour
  1. break up uncooked rice with hands
  2. coarsely grate onion over broken rice
  3. add black pepper and salt
  4. add ground beef, mix everything with hands
  5. roll into small 1-1 1/2  – inch balls, coat with flour

IMG_0144Part 2:

  • 2 tbspn olive oil
  • 1 heaping tbspn tomato paste
  • ~2 cup hot water
  • 1 heaping tsp salt
  1. in a large saucepan, heat olive oil on medium/high heat
  2. add tomato paste, stir
  3. add 1 cup hot water
  4. add salt
  5. slowly add handfuls of kofte
  6. add more hot water as needed, enough just to cover the kofte
  7. cover and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, then uncover for another 10-15 minutes, depending on how big you made your tiny morsels, so the sauce thickens

Part 3:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 tbspn water
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  1. whisk together in small bowl egg yolks, lemon juice, water, parsley
  2. set aside until kofte are finished cooking
  3. once kofte are finished, slowly add a couple of tbspns of sauce from the kofte to the egg/lemon mixture (the goal here is to slowly heat the egg/lemon mixture, without getting scrambled eggs!); then, add the mixture back into the pot
  4. stir and serve with your favorite Turkish pide, Italian bread, or crusty French loaf because you won’t want to leave behind a single drop of this sauce!

KadInbudu – an ode to ladies’ thighs

Today’s tidbit is a hats-off to gorgeous, meaty-thighed women everywhere. For in Turkish cuisine, voluptuous female thighs are so revered that they have a kofte named after them – kadInbudu, or ladies’ thighs. Indeed there is no higher honor! Once I asked my brother-in-law and medical researcher, Koray, (note:  my husband, under such interrogation conditions, simply cannot be trusted for an objective, empirical response) how it was that such shanks as my generous Italian backside could be desirable, but he reassured me of an authentic cultural appreciation for “nice buns” and thighs. And he concluded his affirmation with a shrug and straightforward medical response, “it’s not healthy to look hungry.”

So for all my lady-friends and family, here’s how to make (and sustain!) those kadInbudu, courtesy of Anne’s expert cooking:


  • 1 pound beef
  • 1 medium-sized onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup arborio rice
  • 2 tbspn olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • mix of all-purpose flour and unseasoned bread crumbs
  • salt
  • pepper
  • canola oil for frying


  1. mince onion (I use a food processor because chopping onions makes me cry!) and sautee on medium heat in 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  2. add 1/4 cup of rice, coating the grains with the onion/olive oil mix (special note:  my mother-in-law always measures in Turkish tea glasses, which was confusing at first, but I’ve settled on the following conversion:  1 tea glass=1/2 cup)
  3. add 1/2 cup water
  4. add 1 tsp salt
  5. cover and cook over low heat until rice is soft

In a separate pan,

  1. cook 2/3 of the meat with 1/4 cup of water on medium heat until water has evaporated
  2. add 1/4 tsp salt
  3. mix both pans together, and let cool

Last part,

  1. mix remaining 1/3 cup of uncooked meat with 1 egg and 1/2 tsp black pepper
  2. form small, oval-sized burgers (about 3″ long, by 2″ wide and 1″ deep)
  3. in one bowl, whisk 4 eggs, in another bowl add a mix of all-purpose flour, unseasoned bread crumbs and 1/4 tsp salt
  4. dip/coat each kofte in the flour mix first, then dip into the egg (I like to do a double-dip for extra crispy coating!)
  5. fry in canola oil until golden brown (my mother-in-law fries in a pan on the stove, I use a deep fryer – either works just fine)
  6. …and while you have your deep fryer out, you may as well do a few potatoes to go with!

A kofte by any other name…

When I was in the 3rd grade in 1981, I drew the shortest straw and was assigned to write a country profile on Turkey. I knew nothing about the country, other than the obvious name-sharing with our traditional Thanksgiving bird.

It was my least favorite of all the reports I did that year. My rendering of Mehmet the Conqueror resembled later-years Van Gogh, as I got lost in trying to draw the turban and forgot his ear.  3rd grade report drawing

Then in 1997, I met a Turkish man who changed my life. Previously, having sworn off romantic love, I had decided that men were like hamburgers. We have one burger in the United States. You can get this burger with a myriad of different toppings – tomato, onion, pickle, cheese…and it has a different name based on the toppings combination. But essentially it’s the same burger. The same shape, roughly the same ingredients, most always eaten between the same tedious yet innocuous burger bun.

And then I met Tolga. And, shortly thereafter, experienced a savory explosion – a Turkish burger, or kofte.

Tolga explained that each region in Turkey has its own kofte, which isn’t merely the same burger with varying toppings. It’s an entirely different take on the burger itself. Texture, shape, spice – before the kofte is plated, you already know it will be something unique, something extraordinary.

If I can de-clutter and organize years and piles of recipes on sticky notes, Mercimek in the Oven will share my passion for Turkish food, a unique and extraordinary cuisine, and include a few personal anecdotes and traditions along the way…and, maybe even preserve some edible heritage for my 3-year old daughter, Ayla.  And the blog title? A coy Turkish euphemism for having sex – and a playful undercurrent for the subjects of food, family, and fertility!

Hosgeldiniz! I warmly welcome your comments and recipe variations!