Little lamb dumplings with oregano and rice

Little lamb dumplings with oregano and rice

Koofteh sholleh

Mark Roper

This is the ultimate in comfort food: soft, soupy, tomatoey rice with tender little dumplings – koofteh. Both the sauce and koofteh are scented with oregano (fresh and dried), and as with other dishes from the northwest of Iran, this one has a hint of peppery spice.

One of the secrets to making these koofteh is to mince the lamb twice; ask your butcher to do this for you, or do it yourself at home. The mince must then be energetically and thoroughly kneaded so that the fat is evenly distributed throughout the meat and it turns into a soft, smooth, sticky paste. You can do this quickly in a food processor, if you like, but chill the bowl and blade in the fridge first.


Quantity Ingredient
120g short-grain rice
50ml olive oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
sea salt
2 litres good-quality chicken stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3-4 vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
2 tablespoons oregano leaves
300g lamb minced twice, (from the shoulder)
1 egg
1/2 cup finely snipped chives
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lime, juiced
flatbread, to serve
2 tablespoons Saffron liquid


  1. Soak the rice in cold water for 5 minutes
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or casserole dish over a low– medium heat. Fry the onion until soft and starting to colour. Drain the rice and stir it into the onion. Add 1 teaspoon salt and pour on enough stock to cover and reserve the rest. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the rice is just cooked and the stock has been absorbed.
  3. Take out 4 tablespoons of the rice and set aside to cool. When cool, refrigerate until well chilled
  4. Meanwhile, add the remaining stock to the saucepan. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the tomato, paprika, dried herbs and half the oregano leaves. Bring to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
  5. To make the koofteh, mix the reserved chilled rice with the lamb mince, egg, chives and the remaining oregano leaves and season with salt and pepper. Knead thoroughly for at least a minute until everything is well combined (alternatively, pulse in a chilled food processor). Use wet hands to roll the koofteh mixture into smooth, even dumplings, about the size of a small walnut. You should get 24 koofteh from the mixture.
  6. Stir the saffron liquid into the rice, then add the koofteh and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 12 minutes, skimming away any impurities that rise to the surface and stirring from time to time to ensure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of pan. By the end of the cooking time the rice should have become a soft, gloopy liquid. Freshen with lime juice and adjust the seasonings to taste. Serve with warm thick flatbread.
Middle Eastern
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