Koofteh is a Persian term for meatballs and Rizeh in Farsi means mini and tiny. There are many recipes for koofteh (also called kofta) in Middle Eastern cuisines. In Iran there are various recipes from different regions with most of them being from Azarbaijan province. There are many tips and tricks for making any kind of koofteh and usually grandmas are the experts. All koofteh recipes have one ingredient in common which is ground beef though the rest of ingredients may change. Some recipes have cooked rice, others yellow split peas and some might have chopped fresh herbs. Almost all of the koofteh recipes are finished by simmering in tomato sauce. Fried potatoes and tomatoes are here to bring extra flavors and texture to this recipe. This dish is commonly served with bread such as lavash or barbari. Torshi (pickled vegetables) and fresh herbs also pair beautifully with koofteh.
1. Fill a medium saucepan half-full with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add split peas, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside to cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl half-full with cold water. Peel potatoes and cut into ½-inch (1 cm) cubes. Add to water and set aside for at least 15 minutes to release the starch from potatoes.
3. Cut onion in half. Finely dice one half and coarsely chop the other half. Set aside separately.
4. Combine split peas, coarsely chopped onions, garlic, salt, pepper and turmeric in a food processor. Blend well for 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth. Scrape into a large bowl.
5. Add ground beef to the split pea mixture and use your hands to mix everything together for 1 to 2 minutes, ensuring it is well mixed. Scoop beef mixture into 1½-inch (4 cm) meatballs, rolling between hands to make sure they are round.
6. Heat 1½ tsp (7 mL) of the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy enamelled cast-iron pan or deep nonstick skillet. Fry meatballs, in batches, turning until golden brown all over. Transfer to a bowl.
7. Add diced onions to pan and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes or until translucent. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Return meatballs and accumulated juices to the pot. Add about 2 to 3 cups (500 to 750 mL) boiling water to fill the pot enough to come halfway up the meatballs. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until the sauce is thick and a digital instant-read thermometer inserted into several meatballs reads 160°F (71°C).
8. Meanwhile, drain potatoes and pat dry with a paper towel. Add 3 tbsp (45 mL) oil to another heavy saucepan or skillet. Add potatoes and fry over medium-low heat, stirring often, for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
9. If garnishing with the vine tomatoes, return the pan to medium heat. Add remaining 1½ tsp (7 mL) oil to the pan. Cook tomatoes, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or until blistered and slightly softened. Remove from heat.
10. Spoon potatoes and meatballs onto a platter or serving plate. Drizzle meatballs with tomato sauce and garnish the platter with the blistered tomatoes (if using).