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Meatballs in broth – Кofta bozbash

Кofta bozbash - meatballs in broth
Meatballs are popular across the Caucasus and Middle East.

The Azerbaijani variety, kofta bozbash, are large, hearty meatballs of minced lamb and rice with a zesty dried plum surprise in the middle. They are usually served in a meat-based stock with vegetables and chickpeas. The name kofta bozbash is a combination of Persian and Azerbaijani, kofta or kufte coming from the Persian for "pounding", as traditionally the meat for the meatballs is pounded almost into a paste, and bozbash being an Azerbaijani name for bouillon or soup.

Preparation time: 40-45 min
Cooking time: 45 min
Serves: 5-6


  • For the broth
  • 1 kg/2.2 lb lamb bones
  • water
  • 2 or 3 threads of saffron soaked for at least 30 minutes in warm water
  • salt & pepper
  • 75 g/3 oz chickpeas
  • 1 medium-sized potato per person
  • 2 onions
  • 1 tbspn allspice (optional)
  • For the meatballs (1 to 2 meatballs per serving)
  • 500 g/1.1b lamb
  • 75 g/ 3 oz sheep fat
  • 1 medium onion
  • 75 g/3 oz short grain rice
  • 10 fresh or dried plums or greengages for the meatballs and a few more for the soup.
  • fresh coriander or dried mint
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground caraway seeds (optional)


  • Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in cold water. Rinse. Put in a pan of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Don't overcook as they will cook further in the bozbash.
  • If making a traditional broth as the basis for the bozbash, put the lamb bones in a saucepan and cover with water, 5 cm/2 inches above the level of the bones. Bring slowly to the boil and skim off the foam that forms on the surface. Add 1 tablespoon of allspice. Simmer over a low heat for 2 to 3 hours. Strain the broth. Remove any meat from the bones to go into the kofta before discarding the bones. As the broth cools, fat forms on top. This fat is not removed in traditional Azerbaijani cooking, but it can be skimmed off and thrown away for those who don't like very fatty soups. (Broth can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.)
  • Kofta can also served in a lighter vegetable broth, but the meat stock is more traditional.
  • Put a few threads of saffron in a cup and add boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse.
  • Mince the lamb for the meatballs, chop the onion finely and mix the two together. Add the lamb fat to help the meatballs stick together.
  • Add the uncooked rice, salt & pepper and ground caraway seeds and mix well.
  • Shape into meat balls (1-2 per serving) with 2 dried plums or greengages inside each ball.
  • Chop the onions and fry in lamb fat until soft.
  • Put the chickpeas, potatoes, onions and additional dried plums into the broth and add the meat balls. Bring to the boil and simmer until you can see that the rice inside the kofta is swollen. Some 10-15 minutes before the broth is ready, add the saffron infusion and salt & pepper to taste.
  • Serve the bozbash with chopped coriander on top in summer or crumble dried mint over it in winter.

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