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 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.)
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.
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