Lamb Kofte: The Make-Ahead Cook

Spiced ground lamb is cooked kebab style in this kofte recipe and served with a creamy yogurt-garlic sauce.
Lamb Kofte Recipe |

All day I’ve been rushing, my breath slightly faster than should be normal, trying to calm the racing thoughts. I’m attempting to pack in more than is possible while the kids are off at their learning institutions for the first day of the new school year.

I glance at the time; I’m down to counting minutes before they arrive. A client’s project waits on the counter for its chance in the sunlit studio as I move the props around, nudging them this way and that. My brain is a ticker tape of what needs to be done, the continuous paper stream filled with emails to send, filing what needs to be done later after I’ve tucked the children into bed when my workday continues.

I hear the bus, but do not see it: the distinct rumbling that stalls momentarily in front of my house, the squeak of the arm being extended. Then it’s off again for the corner. I wait for a sound from one of my children, but do not expect it. The sun is out, and my kids are always eager to walk the first few months of school before the novelty wears off like leaves in the autumn wind.

I continue, waiting for the sounds of my kids coming down the street. A few minutes later I stick my head out our creaky front door, hands sticky with residue, working even as I transition to mothering. I am standing with one foot in both worlds, straddling the two as we did this summer when we put one foot in Canada and the other in Minnesota, laughing about being in two countries at once.

My daughter is pulling up on her bicycle with her friends. As if in slow motion, the recognition that the walking line has already passed and that my youngest son was not among the ant-like colony of children that travel to and from school settles in my stomach.
Lamb Kofte Recipe |
In an instant the work is abandoned and as good as forgotten as I grab the keys and my phone and head for the door. Dinner plans sit like crumpled and forgotten napkins on the kitchen floor, or they would, if they weren’t already in the refrigerator.

I will divulge now that Magnus made his way home eventually in an attempt to spare you the details of the endless minutes when seconds stretched on forever as I held my breath and believed that my 6-year-old son was okay, not wandering an unfamiliar street after getting off on the wrong bus stop or carried off the playground.

Our dinner continued onward, just a few minutes off track as I tied up my discarded work from earlier and continued on with life, asking my kids about their first day back as they measure flour and mix it into dough for the night’s meal. I found myself wondering why I wasn’t always so organized, prepping the food ahead of time so that life’s little surprises don’t get in the way.
Lamb Kofte Recipe |
The reason for my preplanning was not by my own doing exactly. Despite what you may otherwise believe, I am generally what can only be described as a hot mess. I’m not proud of it, and while I have good intentions and do engage in plenty of planning, things tend to fall apart at the seams when those plans are forced to be put into action, the stitching not quite strong enough for the forces of nature.

No, instead I must attribute it to working from The Make-Ahead Cook from America’s Test Kitchen, a cookbook sent to me for review, and one that I eagerly open and started bookmarking once it arrived. While I am no stranger to making things ahead, and I can attest to my natural planning and preparing habits that I have been saved by having things on hand many a time in the past, this book breaks down the process of meal preparation in a thorough, systematic way. It gives recommendations for containers and explaining why different techniques work for freezing ahead and even breaks down the best places to store prepped food in your refrigerator and freezer so that your make-ahead meals are just as good as the ones you prepare immediately before you eat them. It will help you stock your freezer, get the slow cooker started, and keep plenty of reheat whole food meals tucked in the refrigerator for those extra busy days that just get away from you. It is a brilliant resource for the busy cook. You can enter to win a copy of your own below, courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen.
Lamb Kofte Recipe |
Ole described these as “Middle Eastern meatloaf on a stick.” I, however, think calling them meatloaf may conjure up unfavorable images of Midwestern style mashed potatoes and a grey mass of ground beef with ketchup slathered over the top, which does a disservice to the warm spices and vibrant fresh flavors in these kebabs. Plus, yogurt sauce wins over ketchup every day. We served them alongside our lamb kebabs, naan, and plenty of romaine, onions, and tomatoes from the garden.

Lamb Kofte: The Make-Ahead Cook



  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1½ teaspoons hot smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 medium shallots, peeled
  • 1½ pounds ground lamb
  • ⅓ cup minced fresh mint
  • ⅓ cup minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • For the Yogurt-Garlic Sauce:
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  1. In a food processor, add the pine nuts, garlic, garam masala, paprika, salt, and pepper. Pulse until a coarse paste forms, about 20-30 seconds. Remove from the food processor and add to a large bowl.
  2. Add the shallots to the food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped. Add the shallots to the bowl with the pine nut paste along with the lamb, mint, parsley, and gelatin.
  3. Knead the mixture until combined thoroughly. Divide into eight equal portions and shape into 5-inch logs, about an inch in diameter. Lengthwise through the center of each log, run a barbecue skewer (metal are preferred). Place the skewers on a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
  4. To cook, heat your grill to high. Place the skewers on the grates at a 45º angle to prevent them from sticking or falling through.
  5. Cook directly over the heat source until browned and easily released from the grill, about 5-7 minutes. Flip and grill an additional 6 minutes or until cooked through (160ºF).
  6. Remove from grill, cool slightly, and serve.
  7. To make the yogurt garlic sauce: Mix the yogurt, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with the kofte.


This recipe is adapted from The Make-Ahead Cook Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen and is used with permission.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-6

Lamb Kofte for the First Day of School


  1. It is SO SCARY to put those little kids on the school bus and leave them in the hands of a stranger. I sent my youngest off to ‘big girl school’ this morning and it was really hard to put her on that bus. Glad everything turned out alright! And thanks for this fantastic looking recipe. I’m always looking for new lamb recipes. It’s a favorite in our household. This looks like just the thing!

  2. Thank you! Cute pics~~

  3. The are the cutest pics! I love the first day of school! 🙂

  4. This is my kind of dinner! So delicious!

  5. Sounds like a great dinner option to change up the routine!

  6. Gretchen D says:

    Love ATK and this recipe looks delicious!

  7. These look and sound delicious! (I love ATK’s recipes, so much!)

    Your writing style is awesome!

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