Nutrition and Fitness with Randa

Kafta Potato Bake: A Middle Eastern Dish

I will never forget my brother and sisters teasing me because of the many ringlets of hair that adorned my head when I was young. Their favorite nickname for me at one point was "kafta", and I cringed, if not cried, every time they called me that (even though I loved eating Kafta).

Kafta is a popular meat dish in the Middle East, and can be prepared in the form of patties, meatballs, or in long cylindrical "fingers"; the latter was the inspiration for the nickname I was given.

If the thought of using ground beef for another meatloaf or hamburger patty bores your taste buds, try this wonderful Lebanese preparation of ground beef and aromatic spices and herbs. The meat mixture can be made and used in a number of different ways, such as barbequed Kafta skewers (Kafta Mishwi), Kafta Potato Bake (Kafta Batata), and Kafta Pita Sandwiches. Here are two of those recipes:

Kafta Potato Bake


  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup parsley (finely chopped)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 cups water
  • dash of salt and cinnamon

1. Set oven at 350 degrees. Thoroughly mix first 6 ingredients. Spread mixture into a greased 9 x 12 inch baking pan.

2. Peel potatoes and slice into 1/2 inch thick slices and place evenly on top of meat layer (you can also pan fry the potato slices in a little olive oil before placing them on the meat - this adds some extra flavor and texture)

3. Blend the tomato paste with the water and pour over the potato layer. Sprinkle a dash of salt and cinnamon over potatoes.

4. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until meat is cooked.

5. Serve with a salad of fresh lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers and feta cheese and a lemon vinaigrette to round out the meal.

Before adding the potatoes, you can also top the meat with sliced tomatoes, sliced green bell peppers or zucchini, and sliced onions. Then add the potatoes.

Kafta Sandwiches or over Arabic Rice Pilaf

1. Using the same meat mixture, form the meat into long rolls resembling fingers or into balls like meatballs.

2. Cook on a cookie sheet under the broiler. Turn over to cook the other side. They may also be placed on the barbeque or grill formed around a skewer.

3. FOR PITAS: Put the Kafta in whole wheat pita breads that have been spread with hummus.  Place the kafta-filled pitas in a sprayed skillet on low to medium heat (you can also melt a little butter for flavor) and press down as the bread browns and turn over to brown the other side.

4. FOR RICE: Place Kafta balls or 'fingers' over rice pilaf*

5. Serve with cucumber mint yogurt*, sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and fresh cucumber slices.

*For recipes, see my blog post on Cooking with Zucchini Lebanese Style.

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