Posts Tagged ‘lamb mince’


Dawoud Pash are small meatballs with a pine nut in the centre cooked in a tomato sauce with the addition of cumin which gives this dish a middle eastern flavour.  Named after Dawoud Pasha, ruler of Iraq during the Ottoman empire who apparently, loved to eat them.  This is an Iraqi recipe that I have taken from Lamees Ibrahim’s book.   I had been to Books for Cooks just before Christmas to look for any new Greek cookery books and The Iraqi cookbook caught my eye as I was leaving.   It was sitting strategically on the table by the door, the beautiful food photography on the cover enticed me to pick up the book and have a look through.  As I can no longer justify buying any more books I did say with some conviction that this was a book I would love to receive as a Christmas present.  I might have gone on to repeat myself somewhat later on.  I have learnt pester power works!

The addition of the cumin to the sauce is what makes this dish middle eastern.  Although a delicate dish, there is a curry element to the flavour but without any of the heat.  The flavour of the lamb is still there and every now and then you find yourself biting into a pine nut which is quite satisfying, a bit like winning at the lucky dip or finding the coin in the Christmas pudding.  Even though I had carefully placed a pine nut in each ball I did notice when cooking a few of them escaped.

The Iraqi Cookbook has been traveling around with me since Christmas allowing me to dip into it and muse at which recipe I will try first.   As with a lot of things in life I didn’t plan on making Dawoud Pasha.  It was Sunday morning and as I looked into the fridge all that was there as any real basis for a meal was one pound of lamb mince.   The usual thoughts of Keftedes, or Italian meatballs crossed my mind but I desired something different, something new.  Then I remembered a recipe I had glanced at in The Iraqi Cookbook –  Dawoud Pasha.  I had all the ingredients in the cupboard and the recipe seemed straight forward and easy to follow.

The first unusual thing about making these meatballs is that an egg isn’t used to bind the mixture just a little water.  The second being that flour was kneaded into the meat, usually I dust the meatballs in the flour not mix it in.  The one thing I did learn was that by kneading the meat with a little water, it begins to change texture, it becomes more fluid and manageable.  There are no instructions about the adding of the water except to add as and when needed.  I added a large tablespoon of warm water instead of cold because I felt cold would tighten up any fat in the meat and would not help in the binding.

I didn’t have any fresh tomatoes so instead used a tin and strengthened the taste with a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste.

This is a very easy recipe to make and follow and I enjoyed sitting at the kitchen table making the little meatballs the size of walnuts, remembering to place a little pine nut in the centre.   Like a squirrel burying its nuts for winter!


Dawoud Pasha

Makes 23 meatballs


500g/1lb lamb mince meat

1 clove garlic crushed

2 tbs plain flour

1 onion chopped

1 tablespoon oil

1 tin of tomatoes

2 tbs tomato paste


pine nuts

salt and pepper

1 tsp ground cumin


In a frying pan over a low heat dry roast the pine nuts until light brown in colour.  As the pan gets hot take it off the heat and tip the pan, rolling the pine nuts back and forth allows them to still colour just from the heat of the pan. Place on a plate to cool.

In a bowl mix the lamb mince with the crushed garlic and the 2 tbs of flour.  Season.  Using your hands start to knead the meat adding a little warm water, a large tablespoon at a time.  The meat will become more pliable.

To make the meatballs take an amount the size of a walnut and roll in your hands to create a ball.  With your thumb push down and add a single pine nut.  Roll again into a ball and set aside onto a plate.  Continue until all the meat is used up.

Place some oil in a pan and fry the meatballs in small batches until all are browned. Place on some kitchen paper when cooked.

In a saucepan add a little oil and fry the chopped onions until softened.  Add the tin of tomatoes filling the tin with water and adding this too, tomato paste and cumin.  Season and bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  As the tinned tomatoes do not break down as easily as fresh I used a hand held blender to break them up.  Add the meatballs and simmer for another 20 minutes.

Serve with simple white rice.


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Keftedes (pronounced keftethes) are Greek meatballs eaten hot or cold.  There is something special about them, they are incredibly moreish and I think every Greek household must have their own version of the recipe.  I use lamb mince but there is nothing to say you cannot use pork, beef, veal or a combination.   In summer I eat them cold with tzatziki and a salad and in winter I eat them warm with fava.  The recipe is versatile in that you add more bread to increase volume, or add different herbs.

The summer I learnt to make Keftethes was the summer I travelled to Athens by  Magic Bus.  My friend Karen and I had talked for weeks about going to Greece overland and spending the summer lying in the sun. We scoured the back of Time-Out for cheap tickets.  One advert caught our attention ‘The Magic Bus’ – return ticket London/Athens/London £55. Tickets were only issued on a cash basis and in person, the offices of The Magic Bus were above a shop in Shaftesbury Ave and pretty shabby.  We were both nervous in handing over our hard earned cash for a non-refundable coach ticket but the thought of a summer of love was greater.  Our fate was sealed.  Hello summer of expectation.

My parents drove us up to Victoria bus station where we boarded the packed coach.  My protective father interviewed the two Greek drivers who had little to no English, the cross examination went well until they asked him if he knew the way out of London.  I could feel the chill of an ill wind whistle pass my seat.

The promised three and a half day trip turned into ten days of hell.  The coach was old, and tatty.  It was packed to the brim with people and luggage. There was very little legroom and had we known that we would have to sleep sitting up in our seats for the next ten days we would have got off at Victoria. We were lucky in that the nasty infection which spread through the coach was limited to the foot, which was so nasty the chap sitting behind us ended up in a Greek hospital.

Our drivers were hell bent on driving at break neck speed with as few stops as possible, they had a mission and the rest of us were not in on it.   As we approached Mont Blanc the driver’s behaviour became very excited and as we weaved up the mountain we could see what was an earlier Magic Bus.  To celebrate their reunion, they took it in turns to over take each other, whilst opening and closing the door shouting and waving.  As the coach climbed higher the stunts became more dangerous with the other coach’s spare driver managing to hang out of the door whilst trying to drink a glass of white wine. I think if I hadn’t been so tired, hungry and bashed about I would have been frighten senseless.  I sat there rooted to my seat glancing out of the window at the massive drop and wishing I was somewhere else.  I had gone off the idea of love.

Shortly after this we had several long delays, which pushed our drivers to the brink of meltdown.  One of their ideas was to cut the length of time for our food and toilet stops to a minimum.  We as a group tried to revolt and refused to be rushed in returning to the coach.  Two of us passengers learnt a hard lesson that we were not in that strong a position, because the coach left without them.  No amount of shouting and abuse at the drivers by us stopped the coach.  We never saw them again.

From then on in the journey was just pure hell.  Two days stuck at the Yugoslavian borders and a lot of backtracking due to the drivers being completely lost.  When we did finally arrive in Athens all I can remember is that I was tired and filthy and longed for home.

It took about 24 hours before we bounced back.  I spent the rest of the  summer staying with Patroklos in Athens.  Kyria Cisci, Patroklos’ mother lived in the flat below and was keen to take me under her wing.   During the day when Patroklos was at work Kyria Cisci would  show me how to iron a man’s shirt and how to cook.   One of the recipes she showed me and has stayed with me is keftedes.  I think it was because she told me her secret ingredient, which was a little bit of Ouzo added to the mince mixture.  I felt very honored to have been let into her secret.   I would sit in her kitchen early in the morning (to avoid the mid day heat) and take notes as she went about creating her recipes.  I might not have found love that summer but I certainly was prepared if I did!



500g lamb mince

1 egg

1 onion chopped very finely and cooked to transparent stage in a pan with a little butter.

2 slices day old white bread with the crusts cut off.  You can use more if you want the meatballs to go further

A little milk for the bread.

Mint – fresh or dried

Oregano – fresh or dried

Salt and pepper

A little Ouzo (optional)

Oil for frying – I use olive but use the oil you like the taste of.

Flour for dusting the meatballs.


  1. Chop the onion finely and put into a pan with a little butter and leave on a low heat until they are transparent and soft.
  2. Take the crusts off the bread and submerge the crustless bread in milk and then gently squeeze, you don’t want to make the bread into a pulpy ball but something that will break up easily – if you prefer you can use water instead of the milk.
  3. Put the bread, egg, meat, herbs, softened onion, salt and pepper into a food processor and give it a good whizz.  Lift the lid and make sure it is all well mixed.  You can also do this process by hand – the difference is the mince is not as fine.  For the best results I put the mixture in the fridge for half an hour for it to rest and for the ingredients to cool down and firm up which will make rolling them into balls much easier.
  4. Remove from fridge. Take about a tablespoon and a bit of the meat mixture and roll between your hands to create a ball the size of a walnut, drop this ball into the flour and coat.  Set aside.  Carry on until all the meat has been turned into floured balls.  Heat your oil until its hot enough, if you drop a small crumb of bread in and it starts to sizzle its ready.  Start placing the balls into the oil, flattening them a little with the back of a spoon.  Cook on both sides.  The aim is that the meat is cooked throughout not pink.

The size of the keftedes is up to you.  They can be made the size of walnuts, or smaller if you want to use them as an appetiser or much larger if you are in a hurry but you need to watch that they are cooked through.

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