Qufta Qurma

Afghanistan, a country pillaged by decades of war. Spogmai once told me that a significant portion of the country was now in ruins but that was not always the case. Despite the all-too-prevalent negative images of the country portrayed by the media - namely, the ongoing conflict and the heart-wrenching poverty and suffering - there lies in Afghanistan contrasting images of beauty. These images of beauty are especially prevalent within the Afghan people and the pride and hope they carry for their country. I have never been to Afghanistan but I have had the pleasure of experiencing some aspects of the Afghan culture through friends which includes their exquisite and mouthwatering Afghan dishes.

I received this Afghan recipe from Spogmai who is a dear friend of mine. Most if not all her meals are Paleo mainly because her husband cannot tolerate gluten. Her recipe was already Paleo to begin with so I did not have much tweaking to do. Any alterations in this recipe had to do with my own preference and that is the beauty of this recipe, you can adjust the seasonings to your preference accordingly.

Qufta Qurma is a traditional Afghan dish. Most versions of the dish involve rolling the ground meat into meatball shapes. This particular recipe involves rolling the meat into kabob shapes. This difference may seem inconsequential to some but Afghan families rooted in tradition will not stray from the meatball version of this dish whereas families who are more open to experimentation would attempt a different version such as this recipe. The process by which the dish is cooked within families carries a significant cultural meaning which surpasses the dish itself.  So, do not be surprised if you find most versions of this dish differ greatly from this recipe.  Yes, this recipe is for Qufta Qurma but a version that signifies my friend's less traditional cultural perspective.


(makes 1-2 servings)

1.5 pounds ground meat (not too lean)
1 small grated onion (approx 1/2 cup)
6 red tomatoes
2-3 pieces of garlic
two cups of fresh coriander, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
sea salt
black pepper
a tablespoon of curry powder
a tablespoon of garam masala
a tablespoon of ground corriander
1/2 tablespoon of dried mint
half a garlic to grate over dish, optional

1. Mix the meat with 1 cup of the chopped coriander, 1/4 of the fresh mint, the grated onion, and a touch of sea salt/black pepper. You will be seasoning the sauce later on so make sure not to over-season the meat or your dish will turn out too salty. Mix well.

2. Let the meat rest for approximately half an hour in the fridge (the longer the better). Once the meat has rested, mix it again and start rolling them out into thin kabob-like shapes. Try to make them very long and thin because they will shrink and thicken as they cook.

3. In a large pan, add coconut oil and start frying all the kabobs using high heat to make sure they brown nicely. (The first time I made this dish my heat was not high enough so my kabobs fell apart so make sure you use high heat)
4. In a food processor or high-speed blender, puree the tomatoes and garlic.

5. Once all the kabobs are browned, place them all in the same pan and pour the pureed tomatoes/garlic on top. Add the curry powder and dried coriander.

6. Let the dish simmer for at least half an hour, and make sure you keep checking on it so that it does not burn.

7. Once you see that the water has evaporated and the oil is starting to separate, add half a cup of water and mix in the garam masala gently. Also add in the rest of the fresh coriander, chopped mint and the powdered mint, and mix again. Let the dish simmer for a few minutes more so the flavours incorporate.

8. If you are a fan of garlic, grate half a garlic (about the size of half a teaspoon) at this point over the dish. The garlic will enhance the ​flavour of the dish but don't overdo it or the garlic will overpower the other flavours.

8.  Season the sauce with sea salt and voila!

Notes: This dish is very flexible. You can always add more mint, coriander, salt, or any of the other spices/seasonings according to your preference.  If you do not have powdered mint, you can always use fresh.  You can usually purchase dried or powered mint at a bulk store - using powdered mint to season the dish does make a world of difference.

Mix the meat with 1 cup of the chopped coriander, 1/4 of the fresh mint, the grated onion, and a touch of sea salt/black pepper and let rest for at least half an hour in the fridge.

Fresh tomatoes work best with this dish. You can always use organic diced tomatoes if more convenient. Food processing fresh tomatoes, however, does not take much time at all.

Roll the meat out into kabob shapes.

Let the dish simmer until the oil starts to separate from the tomato sauce.


About the Chef

Did I mention that not only is Spogmai a talented chef but also a brilliant scholar? Spogmai is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in education and international development and has completed a significant amount of research revolving around the education of Afghan women. To read a sampling of her work, check out her publication So Far Away: Voices of Rural Afghan Women.
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