Spiced pumpkin köfte with walnut and fetta stuffing

Spiced pumpkin köfte with walnut and fetta stuffing

Lisa Cohen and William Meppem

Köfte are a large and varied group of dishes that are probably best described as ‘minced’. They can be made with minced meat or vegetables and flavoured with different spices. Some include bulgur or breadcrumbs or rice. They come in myriad shapes and forms and can be moulded around skewers or shaped into patties or ovals, large or small. Some köfte are stuffed, others are eaten wrapped in lettuce or vine leaves. Some köfte are eaten raw, others are fried or baked.

These are loosely based on the Turkish stuffed köfte or içli köfta, but are made with lightly spiced pumpkin rather than the traditional minced lamb, so they are softer and more delicate. The sharp fetta stuffing is the perfect counterpoint to the sweet pumpkin.

You’ll find the red pepper paste used here in Middle Eastern food stores.


Quantity Ingredient
1 small butternut pumpkin
50ml olive oil
1 purple onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon hot turkish red pepper paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon teaspoon
250g fine bulgur
generous pinch salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Walnut and fetta stuffing

Quantity Ingredient
2/3 cup walnuts
180g fetta
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Use a large heavy knife to trim the ends from the pumpkin and quarter it lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard them. Rub the pumpkin pieces lightly with a little of the oil, then roast them on a baking tray for 30–40 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Heat the remaining oil in a large heavy-based saucepan. Stir in the onion, pepper paste, cumin and paprika and sweat over a low heat for 15–20 minutes.
  3. When the pumpkin is cooked, scrape the flesh into a food processor and blitz to a fine purée. Stir the pumpkin purée into the sautéed onion mixture and bring to a simmer.
  4. Rinse the bulgur, then add it to the pumpkin purée and season with salt. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes, then tip the mixture into a bowl and leave to cool in the refrigerator.
  5. While the pumpkin mixture is chilling, make the walnut and fetta stuffing. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Scatter the walnuts onto a baking tray and roast for 5–10 minutes until a deep golden brown. Tip the nuts into a tea towel and rub well to remove as much skin as possible. Chop the walnuts coarsely and toss in a sieve to remove any remaining skin and dust. Combine the stuffing ingredients in a bowl and use a fork to mash everything together.
  6. When ready to make the köfte, mix the eggs into the chilled pumpkin mixture. Take a small lump of the mixture and mould it in your hand to make a smooth ball. Use a finger to make an indentation in the mixture and work it to hollow out the middle. Stuff a generous teaspoon of the stuffing into the hollowed-out köfte, then pinch the edges together to seal. Arrange the prepared köfte on a tray, and refrigerate until ready to cook.
  7. To fry the köfte, heat the oil to 200ºC in a large saucepan or deep-fryer. Fry four köfte at a time for 2–3 minutes, or until a deep golden brown. Be careful as the oil will splutter and spit a lot. Using a slotted spoon, remove the köfte to drain on kitchen paper – keep them warm while you fry the remaining köfte. Serve immediately.
Middle Eastern
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