Bulgur Koftes in Tomato and Pepper Paste Sauce

Harput Köftesı


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • 4


Appears in

The Cuisine of Life: Recipes and Stories of the New Food Entrepreneurs of Turkey

The Cuisine of Life

By Center for International Private Enterprise

Published 2019

  • About

Harput Köftesi — kofte named for Harput, a highly elevated town about five kilometers from Elazığ city — are an indispensable part of Elazığ cuisine, frequently decorating tables during festivals and weddings. There is a saying about this type of köfte: “I prepared Harput Kofte, rolled (or ‘gındırlamak’ in a local language) it from Harput to Elazığ, and it did not disintegrate.” Therefore, they’re shaped like tires. Gülhan’s mother would often cook this dish with dried basil, a common ingredient in Elazığ. Rub the dried basil between your fingers and palms before adding it to a dish, as Gülhan’s mother taught her — this helps release oils left in the leaves and increases the flavor of your final dish.


For the sauce

  • 1 tablespoon (30 grams) butter
  • 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (25 grams) tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon (25 grams) pepper paste
  • 5 cups (1250 milliliters) water (see note)
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the köftes

  • 500 grams ground lamb (20 percent fat)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup (10 grams) finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200 grams) fine grain bulgur
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons plus ½ cup (125 ml) water
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons semolina, if needed
  • 1 egg, if needed


For sauce: Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add the tomato and pepper pastes. Cook, stirring to break up the pastes, for about 10 minutes, then add the water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, covered, for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the köftes: Put the lamb, onion, parsley, dried basil, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Knead well with your hands for 5 minutes. Add the bulgur and knead well, until all ingredients are incorporated, about 10 minutes more. Add up to 4 tablespoons of water during kneading to help moisten the bulgur. (Kneading for a longer period helps the entire aroma and flavors from the ingredients to get integrated, and is vital to ensure the köftes hold together.)

Pour the ½ cup of water into a small bowl and wet your fingers. Pinch off a walnut-sized (2-cm/¾-inch diameter) piece of the mixture, then mold it by pressing your thumb and middle finger into the center of the ball, to make a tire-like shape of even thickness all around. Put this first little tire into the water bowl; if it does not disintegrate, then the mixture is properly prepared and you can continue shaping the köftes. (If it does disintegrate, knead in 1 or 2 tablespoons semolina or 1 whole egg and test again.)

Slide the köftes into the simmering sauce, cook (at a gentle boil) for 15 minutes, then serve right away. If you are not going to serve right away, remove the köftes from the liquid, as they may disintegrate if left in the warm sauce.