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Kofte Kebab with Tomato Sauce and Yoghurt (Yoğurtlu Köfte Kebabi)

Claudia Roden

by Claudia Roden from Arabesque

Made with beef or lamb, these kofte kebabs are a popular Turkish dish. Layer up in a toasted pitta with your favourite salad and a yummy homemade tomato sauce.

From the book

Claudia Roden


This is a mainstay of Turkish kebab houses where it is often dramatically served in a dish with a dome-shaped copper lid, the type that was once used at the sultan’s palace. I serve it in a large round clay dish which can be warmed in the oven.

This is a multilayered extravaganza. There is toasted pitta bread at the bottom with tomato sauce poured over. This is topped with yoghurt and sprinkled with fried pine nuts. Grilled minced meat kebabs or shish kebab, or both, are laid on top. It requires organization and must be assembled at the last minute as the pitta should remain a little crisp. The tomato sauce and meat should be very hot while the yoghurt should be at room temperature.

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2 pitta breads
750g minced beef or lamb
salt and black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped finely (optional)
A bunch / 50g of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp sumac + a pinch more
500g natural (full-fat) yoghurt
2 tbsp butter or extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tbsp pine nuts
For the tomato sauce:
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 chilli pepper, seeded and chopped
750g tomatoes, peeled and chopped
salt and black pepper
1-2 tsp sugar


Make the tomato sauce first. Fry the onion in the oil until soft. Add the garlic and chilli pepper, and stir for a moment or two. Put in the tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and sugar, and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes until they soften.

Open out the pitta and toast them until they are crisp, then break them into small pieces in your hands.

For the kofte kebabs, season the minced beef or lamb with salt and pepper, and work it into a soft dough with your hands. Add the onion (if using) and the parsley, and work into the meat. Shape into sausages about 2cm thick and 7cm long. Arrange them on an oiled sheet of foil on a baking sheet and cook them under a pre-heated grill for about 8 minutes, turning them over once, until well browned outside but still pink and moist inside.

Spread the pieces of toasted pitta at the bottom of the serving dish and sprinkle over a pinch of sumac. Pour the hot tomato sauce all over and top with a layer of the yoghurt beaten with a fork.

Heat the butter or oil with the pine nuts and stir in the remaining teaspoon of sumac. When the butter or oil sizzles, sprinkle it all over the yoghurt. Arrange the meat on top and serve at once.


For a rural yoghurtlu kebab, sauté small pieces of lamb in butter or oil with chopped onion, and salt and pepper. Serve on a bed of toasted and broken pitta bread and pour warmed yoghurt over the top. Mix a little paprika in sizzling butter and dribble over the yoghurt.


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