Beef ktzitzot with pickled turnip
Beef mince holds a certain nostalgia for me. And I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it fuelled a considerable percentage of family meals growing up. Creative use of mince was the pillar of home economics and sometimes a subtle pathway into other food cultures.
As is often the case with nostalgia, I look back on some early renditions and shudder a little. The colonial lens of simply adding curry powder and raisins to create “chow mein” or “sang choi bao” went from home cookbooks and even made its way into early cooking-school curriculum without any sense of irony.
All things aside, I am still very fond of mince. The recent rise in comfort cooking brought on by Covid-19 isolation shows the place lasagne is held in the population’s heart. And, as easy as it is to posture and gesture at how we should be using a combination of hand-cut pork and veal for authentic lasagne, sometimes it’s nice to just submit and produce what makes you happy.
These Israeli ktzitzot are a green-flecked patty more commonly made from lamb. The parsley is a player, not just a passenger, in this recipe and I love it for that. If we were to put an Australian spin, these meaty morsels could even be described as a rissole. My recipe here was strongly influenced by Shuki’s version that I regularly scoff down at Very Good Falafel in Brunswick.
Lastly, to the base ingredient. Mince has become the absolute baseline of commodified protein. It doesn’t deserve to be in this place. Buy quality meat from a good source that is processed without all the crap that can make its way into a mincer. Know thy butcher.
Beef ktzitzot with pickled turnip
Makes about 8 patties as a snack for 4 or meal for 2-3
For the pickled turnip
– 1 bunch turnips
– 1 tbsp salt
– 1 tsp beetroot powder
– 300ml white vinegar
– 200ml water
– 100g sugar
– 1 tbsp mustard seeds
For the ktzitzot
– 50g raw burghul
– 1 red onion
– 1 clove garlic
– 2 bunches parsley
– ½ tsp ground cumin
– ½ tsp ground coriander
– ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
– ¼ tsp dried chilli
– 500g beef mince
– 6g salt
– red onion, shaved
– parsley and mint
The turnip pickling is best undertaken at least a day prior to serving. Peel and cut the turnips into either six or eight wedges, depending on size. Sprinkle the turnips with the salt in a bowl and toss them to cover. Let the turnips sit in a strainer. Combine the rest of the pickle ingredients and bring to the boil before setting the liquid aside to cool. Transfer the turnip pieces into an appropriate glass preserve jar and pour the room-temperature pickle liquid over the turnips.
Bring a pot of water to the boil then add the burghul. Cook for six to 10 minutes, depending on the raw product, and drain. This cracked wheat should retain some texture, so keep tasting during the process as the timing can vary wildly.
Combine the onion, garlic, parsley and spices in a jug blender. Blend until it becomes a paste then add it to the beef and burghul in a mixing bowl, using either a bench-top mixer with a paddle or your hands, as I prefer. Work this mix until it starts to get a little mousse-like. Add the salt and then give it another two minutes of mixing; this is important as it defines the patties’ texture. Portion the patties to about 80-gram sausage shapes in your hand and line them on a tray. Grill them for about three to five minutes over coal and serve with the pickles, flatbread, shaved onion, yoghurt and herbs.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 27, 2020 as "Daily grind".
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