Shifta is the Kurdish equivalent of a burger; a bite-sized, herby, tomatoey, well-seasoned burger that’s packed full of flavour. Traditionally it’s either served with a mountain of sawer and a simple salad, or in a wrap with herbs and tomatoes. There are many alternatives to this across the Middle East and Asia (think Kofte), but this recipe will always be close to my heart because it’s my Grandmother’s. 

I was never patient enough to wait until all the Shifta were ready, so Mum would often yell at me as I would unsubtly take a few from the serving plate while she was preparing dinner. It was always worth getting yelled at, and burning my tongue, if it meant getting the first taste of Mum’s Shifta before dinner. 

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4
Make ahead: up to step 9

500g minced lamb*
3 – 4 garlic cloves
1 large white onion
25g fresh parsley
2 spring onions
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp fine salt
2 tbsp flour**
Sunflower oil, for shallow frying

*I use 20% fat in this recipe – It might seem tempting to go for a low-fat option, but fat equals flavour and gives this dish real depth. 
**You could substitute this for 2 tbsp breadcrumbs or 1 egg – both work as a binding agent for the meat.

1. Remove the meat from the fridge and allow it to come up to room temperature.

2. In a large bowl, peel and grate the onion. 

3. Peel and crush the garlic cloves and add this in. 

4. Thinly slice the spring onions and add to the bowl. 

5. Pick the leaves from the parsley and disregard the large tough stalks. Finely chop the leaves and add in. 

6. Add in 1 tsp cumin, ½ tsp fine salt and 2 tbsp tomato purée.

7. Add the minced lamb to the bowl, and using one hand gently start to combine all the elements in the bowl. 

8. Add in 2 tbsp flour and continue to combine by hand so there is an even mix. Be careful not to overwork as this could make the finished product tough. 

9. At this point, you can cover and leave in the fridge until you need it, but I like to form the Shifta if I am making this in advance (it makes life a little easier when you get around to cooking them). 

10. Add sunflower oil to a hot frying pan – you want enough to shallow fry the Shifta. Once the oil is hot, add a few Shifta to the pan and cover with a splatter guard or lid. Fry until each side is golden brown (at least 3 minutes on each side) and set aside over some kitchen roll to absorb any excess oil. Cover with foil to avoid losing too much heat. 

11. Season with a few flakes of Maldon salt, for flavour and texture, and enjoy!

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