top of page
  • Writer's pictureCampbell Whitman

Middle Eastern-Spiced Kefta with Israeli Couscous

This recipe has subtle flavors of the middle east with a light French twist from the herbed-caramelized onion sauce for the couscous. And, for a "meatball" dish, surprisingly, it doesn't feel too heavy.


serves 6-8

150 g chopped celery

150 g chopped onions

1 T olive oil

1 T butter

100 g minced fresh spinach

1/2 t cumin powder

1/2 t za'atar

1/2 t chili powder

1/2 t turmeric powder

1/2 t sweet paprika powder

1.2 kg ground beef (about 2.5 lbs)(for a more authentic recipe: use a mixture of lamb & beef)

1 egg

50 g breadcrumbs


1 T minced fresh mint

1 T minced fresh parsley

Cucumber salad

serves 6

420 g small Persian cucumbers (1/4ed lengthwise)

10 ml lemon juice

1/2 lemon zested

70 g crumbled feta

1-1.5 T finely chopped mint

30 g extra virgin olive oil

pepper (go easy on salt, feta & lemon juice are both salty)


serves 8

600 g pearl (Israeli) couscous

25 g minced cilantro

30 g minced parsley

1 lemon zested

20 ml lemon juice

100 ml extra virgin olive oil


Caramelized Onion Sauce

yields about 1 c

1/3 c extra virgin olive oil

300 g julienned onions

1 1/2 T butter

3 T butter (optional, but worth it- to finish the sauce)


Yogurt-Hummus Sauce

yields about 1 c

100 g hummus

150 g yogurt

30 g tahini paste

1 1/2 T finely-chopped mint

Ok, this is a tall order of a recipe because there are lots of parts, so let's get started! Begin by removing the ground beef (and/or lamb) from the fridge.

For the caramelized onion sauce, in a large, heavy-bottomed pan (with a good sealing lid), with the extra virgin olive oil and melted butter, cook the julienned onions on medium heat for a couple of minutes with the ingredients bubbling, stir well to break apart. Add some s&p, mix and cover again. Once bubbling, turn to low and leave the lid on. After a couple of minutes break them up again (letting the liquid from the lid fall back into the pan), then cook for about 30 minutes (continuing to let the liquid from the lid always fall back into the pan each time you stir-about every 10 minutes or so). This should brown but not turn too dark.

While that is cooking, we will go to the meatballs. In another large pan, with the olive oil & butter on medium to medium-high heat, sauté the celery and onions with s&p stirring every minute or so for 5 minutes. Add the spinach and spices, stir well and cover with a lid. Lower the heat to medium-low. Stir every minute or two for another five minutes. Then, turn it off and leave the lid on for 5. After 5 minutes, remove the lid and place the mixture into a large mixing bowl to cool. Once cooled, add the ground beef, some s&p, egg, herbs and the breadcrumbs. Mix well, but gently. If you over mix it, the meatballs can be tough. Roll them into your shape of choice. Try not to make them too thick or they will be raw in the middle and burnt on the outside. At their thickest part, they should be 1.5-2 inches max (3.5-5 cm MAX). Do not put in the fridge unless you will not be cooking them for hours. Meat should be closer to room temperature before cooking.

In a large pot with bowling water and some salt, cook the couscous a few minutes before what the packaging recommends. Then drain and gently run cold water through it until it is completely cooled. Drain again and set into a large mixing bowl. Add the lemon zest & juice, herbs, s&p and olive oil. Mix well and set aside. This will get reheated with the sauce and finish cooking through. Once the caramelized onions are done, add every drop of oil and the onions into a kitchen machine and pulse until chopped up and mixed together. Add back to the pan and add the couscous when ready to heat up. While heating it up (slowly on medium-low and stirring regularly) add the 3 T of butter. Make sure it is seasoned well before serving.

Mix the tahini with a little of the yogurt until the tahini is smooth and properly mixed in without any lumps. Then, add the rest of the ingredients. and mix well.

Mix all the ingredients together for the cucumber salad and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Cook your meatballs slowly on medium or medium-low rotating each side every 2-3 of minutes until cooked through. I often serve my meatballs just a little pink on the inside for that extra tenderness.


bottom of page