Persian lamb patties
Kotlet is a Persian dish made with ground lamb or beef, potato, onion, mixed with turmeric and eggs and fried in a pan. It originates from the word “cutlet” meaning a flat-shaped patty made with ground meat. I have many wonderful memories about this perfect little Persian meat patty and it is probably in my Top 10 of favourite dishes.
My maman is considered to be the best kotlet maker in our family (I mean the world). From as far back as I can remember, I have memories of her shaping the kotlet in her little hands and frying them on her stove. From the 80’s to present day, those memories are twinned with flash-backs of her various hair-styles. My favourite being the classic 80’s perm in the picture below.
The aroma of the kotlet cooking permeated through the house and bent my sister, father and me to its will. We had to get our hands on at least one of those patties even though my maman was cooking them for a family party (‘mehmooni’) with every single one potentially accounted for. It was a good day (for us) if she was having a clumsy day and a few of the kotlet broke into pieces while she was cooking them. This meant we were legitimately allowed to eat them before the guests arrived, as they had not met the mehmooni standard. But for those times the kotlet Gods were on her side and every patty was perfect, we had to get into stealth mode to try and snaffle one away from the tray they were cooling on.
‘Operation Kotlet’ would begin with each of us waiting for her to be distracted so we could get our prize. Throughout the day she would see her slowly depleting pile of kotlet and would demand which of us had eaten them. I, being the youngest, was the least adept at lying and mostly got the blame. My dad was such a smooth operator that even I believed I had probably eaten his share.
It is now my turn to take the baton and continue the skill of making kotlet but, as with every recipe that is handed down the generations, with the addition of a few personal touches to make this recipe my own. The core ingredients are simple: lamb mince, potato, onion, egg and turmeric. My recipe tweaks include a little garlic and smoked paprika. The resulting kotlet are equally delicious but with a little smokiness to them.
The key to cooking the kotlet is to fry them slowly on a medium / low heat in enough oil for them to be submerged to the edge of the kotlet but not completely under the oil. Also the width of the kotlet is important, too thick – they end up undercooked. The perfect thickness for your kotlet is about 1 cm, oval in shape, approximately 5 cm in width and 10 cm in length (about the length of a palm). While shaping them, ensure you wet your hands which helps to prevent the kotlet from sticking to your hands.
Traditionally, we serve the kotlet warm and usually as an appetiser or part of main meal. We eat our kotlet as sandwich fillers with warm pitta bread or a crusty baguette, Maast-o-Khiar (Persian yoghurt, cucumber and mint dip), fresh crisp lettuce, pickled dill gherkins and fresh tomatoes. My sister and I are also partial to ketchup with our kotlet stuffed in some bread with fresh herbs like tarragon, mint and / or coriander.
- 1 cup vegetable oil (for frying the kotlet - you can fry with less oil and then finish off cooking in the oven if you would prefer)
- 500 g potatoes (Maris Piper is the best) (peeled, boiled and mashed / grated with the fine side of a box grater)
- 500 g minced lamb (minced leg of lamb no more than 20% fat is the best for kotlet)
- 1 onion (grated)
- 1 medium free range egg
- 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Take a saucepan and boil the peeled potatoes until fully cooked. Then mash or grate with the fine side of a box grater or equivalent.
- Grate the onion. Squeeze as much liquid out of the grated onion as you can, otherwise it will make the kotlet fall apart while it is cooking.
- Mix the grated onion and potato with the minced lamb. Add the egg, spices and seasoning and using your hand, mix everything until well combined. The mixture will be sticky.
- Take a large frying pan and pour enough oil in so that it comes to the edge of the kotlet when frying them. Place the pan over a medium / low heat. The frying pan will need to gently heat up for approximately 10 minutes. Cook the kotlet in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan and undercooking the patties.
- Wet your hands and take about a golf ball amount of the kotlet mixture, form into an oval and fry it in the oil on each side until it turns a dark brown colour. During the frying process prick some small holes into the middle of the kotlet using a fork to allow the hot oil to penetrate through and cook the kotlet properly.
- Serve warm or cold with bread, yoghurt (or ketchup), salad and / or fresh herbs.