Kefta is ground beef or lamb, mixed with a variety of herbs and spices. Kefta is ground beef or lamb, mixed with a variety of herbs and spices. Israeli Kitchen Kefta is ground beef or lamb, mixed with a variety of herbs and spices. (Photo: Henry Hargreaves)

Jack's Wife Freda recipe: Lamb kefta

Distinctive recipe comes from the pages of a new cookbook courtesy of a popular Israeli and South African inspired eatery in NYC.

  • Yield: 14 to 16 keftas
  • Level: Medium

The following recipe comes courtesy of the new cookbook, "Jack's Wife Freda: Cooking from New York's West Village." Read our interview with Maya Jankelowitz, the cookbook's author.

These lamb “meatballs” have a wonderfully aromatic smell and taste. They are served with a nutty tahini sauce and topped with sweet currants and pine nuts. Since they are made of lamb, it is only necessary to sear the outside of the kefta, leaving the middle slightly pink and moist. They can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator overnight before cooking.


  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or water
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons currants or raisins
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of cayenne


Grate the onion on the largest holes of a box grater, then place in a large bowl. Mince the garlic and add to the bowl with the onion. Add the ground lamb, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ cup of the parsley and mix with clean hands until thoroughly combined.

Heat the chicken stock or water and add to the bread crumbs, stirring to combine. Add the bread crumb mixture to the lamb and once again mix with your hands until everything is well combined.

Spoon out a heaping tablespoon (roughly 1½ ounces) of the lamb mixture and roll it into a ball, then roll it back and forth between your hands to create an oval, egglike shape. Repeat with the remaining lamb mixture. You should end up with 14 to 16 kefta. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 day, so that the lamb firms up.

While the meat is resting, toast the pine nuts in a small saute pan over low heat. Swirl them in the pan constantly until they begin to take on a golden color, then transfer to a plate to cool.

Put the remaining ¼ cup parsley in a small bowl. Coarsely chop the currants and add to the bowl with the parsley. Once the pine nuts have cooled slightly, coarsely chop them and add to the bowl with the currants and parsley, mixing all to combine; set aside.

In a blender, blend the tahini, ½ cup water, ½ cup of the olive oil, the lemon juice, and the cayenne. Season with salt and add additional water if the mixture is too thick.

In a cast-iron pan or large skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the keftas side by side, not overcrowding the pan. You may have to sear them in two batches. Cook the keftas on all sides for 4 to 6 minutes, until they are nicely browned and the meat is slightly underdone in the center. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool slightly.

Liberally coat the bottom of your serving platter or plate with the tahini sauce. Place the keftas on top of the tahini, and finish by garnishing with a few handfuls of pine nuts and currants.

Recipe from "Jack's Wife Freda: Cooking from New York’s West Village by Maya and Dean Jankelowitz. Recipes by Julia Jaksic. Published by Blue Rider Press, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2016 by NoamBennyLLC.

Related Topics: Meat and Poultry, Mediterranean

Recipes from the Israeli KitchenRecipes from the Israeli Kitchen