These Lamb Kofta Hoagies were supposed to be meatball subs. Yes, I know. It’s a long walk from there to here. But there are a host of good reasons why a plain old meatball sub didn’t make the cut. I’m sure the knee-jerk reaction is to assume, the meatball sub is not fancy enough for me. That’s not true. I have plenty of what I suppose you could call “low-brow” cravings and I indulge them frequently. Perhaps the meatball sub is too pedestrian and overdone? Well, that is sort of true. I don’t like to give people more of what they are currently swimming in. And there are meatball recipes abound. But I created the series Overthinking Classics as an outlet to play with my favorite dishes, which are actually super commonplace. So I don’t always consider being overly familiar a con.
So then, why doesn’t a photo of a meatball sub grace the top of this post? Well, because I hate repeating myself. This blog already has a meatball sub, well, a beanball sub technically. And more meatball recipes than I ever thought I would produce in this lifetime. If you want to figure out what latent food fixations you have, start a blog and watch bizarre behavioral patterns emerge. Apparently, meatballs are very important to me. Who knew? So why make a meatball sub if it is well-trodden territory? If I had made a meatball sub, it likely would’ve had the same marinara that graced my beanball rendition. So what’s the point?
With the meatball abandoned, I decided to swap it with what I would call a sibling of the meatball – kofta. Now, kofta is served in a lot of different places, in a lot of different ways. So, this is not THE kofta recipe. This is a lamb kofta recipe and the only lamb kofta recipe I know of that is served snuggled up in an orange fennel potato roll. So let’s take that as a cue and start with the bread.
Although I grew up eating homemade bread- yes, I know, I was horribly spoiled – I never really interacted with potato bread. I have, of course, eaten potato bread before. It seems to be having a moment as the preferred cheeseburger bun, a move made famous by the hallowed burger chain Shake Shack. So I was itching to make one, and these Lamb Kofta Hoagies seemed like as good an opportunity as any.
To make my orange fennel potato rolls, I used Food52’s recipe as a guide. I cut it in half so I would have 8 rolls instead of 16 and I added toasted fennel seeds and orange zest. I love fennel with full-bodied meats and I have always found lamb and citrus get along famously. Lamb has such a dominant flavor that you need accents that can stand up to it. Orange has an almost floral quality and a slight amount of bitterness that cuts through lamb quite effectively. And fennel seed? Well, it’s hard to deny the punchy personality of a whole spice that is often likened to black licorice.
Other than my alterations to the measurements, doctoring of the method, and my special guest stars, I stayed true to the recipe and was very pleased with the results. Now, naturally making bread takes some time. About 3 hours to be exact. So I would recommend making your potato rolls a day ahead. Or you could buy some potato buns because, as I mentioned before, their popularity has made them almost commonplace in the grocery stores. So no need to knead if you don’t want to.
Now, even if you buy your own potato rolls, you do have to work a little ahead of time to make these Lamb Kofta Hoagies happen. First, you have to pickle the onions, which is nowhere near as labor-intensive as making bread. And I would make the toum in advance because you can. Toum lasts in the fridge for a month and it’s an excellent condiment to have on hand. Toum is not difficult to make but peeling the garlic and be a bit of a pain, so I think it’s best to do it at your leisure. Just pop a particularly engrossing podcast on and get to work. If you want to know more about toum, check out Cosette’s Kitchen. She has an entire post dedicated to it with tons of tips and tricks.
Okay, let’s talk about the main event – the kofta. Kofta is as easy as making meatballs. You basically pop all your ingredients into a bowl and work them together with your hands. Then you mold the mixture around a skewer and grill or fry them. And once the kofta is done, you slide them into one of the potato rolls with toum and mint sauce and top them with the onions and watercress. And that’s it!
I realize these Lamb Kofta Hoagies have a lot of moving parts but the majority of them can be made in advance. And any leftovers can be repurposed in other sandwiches, salads, or dressings. It’s kind of like you’re stocking your fridge with pickles and spreads while making dinner at the same time.
Lamb Kofta Hoagies with Orange Fennel Potato Rolls
- Stand mixer
- Kebab Skewers
Orange Fennel Potato Rolls**
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2½ tsp kosher salt divided
- ¾ tsp active dry yeast
- 1 navel orange zested, divided
- 1 cup warm water
- ½ cup mashed potato
- 2 tbsp honey
- ¼ cup salted butter softened, cut into cubes
- 1 large egg
Pickled Red Onions
- 1 red onion cut into wedges
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 head garlic peeled
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice divided
- 1 cup neutral oil I used canola
- 454g (1lb) ground lamb
- ½ red onion grated
- ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup fresh mint finely chopped
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- fresh ground pepper
- ½ cup mint sauce
- 2 cups watercress washed and dried
For the Potato Rolls
- Pour the fennel seeds into a dry skillet and place them over medium heat. Toast the fennel seeds until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute. Shaking the pan frequently.1 tbsp fennel seeds
- In a large bowl whisk to combine half of the toasted fennel seeds, the flour, sugar, yeast, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and half of the orange zest. Set the bowl aside.4 cups all-purpose flour, ¼ cup granulated sugar, 2½ tsp kosher salt, ¾ tsp active dry yeast, 1 navel orange
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk to combine the potato, water, and honey. Place the hook attachment on the mixer and add half of the dry ingredients. Mix on medium-low until a loose dough forms. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low until thoroughly integrated.1 cup warm water, ½ cup mashed potato, 2 tbsp honey
- With the mixer running, start adding the butter a couple of cubes at a time. Wait until the butter is fully integrated before adding more.¼ cup salted butter
- Once all the butter is in, knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. This should take about 7 minutes. Transfer the dough to a bowl greased with neutral oil. Cover and let rise for an hour and a half or until doubled in size.
- Punch the dough down and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, flatten the dough into a rough rectangle. Take the end closest to you and roll it away from yourself as you would a burrito. Pinch to form a seal along the edges and refine the shape. Repeat with the remaining pieces.
- Transfer the formed rolls to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. This is a good time to start preheating the oven to 350°F.
- Once the oven is up, beat the egg with one tablespoon of water. Brush the mixture over the buns. In a small bowl, whisk to combine the remaining salt, fennel seeds, and orange zest. Sprinkle the mixture over the buns and transfer them to the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through, until golden. Let cool.1 large egg
For the Pickled Onions
- Whisk to combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Pour the mixture over the onions and cover. Let pickle at room temperature for a minimum of 3 hours.***1 red onion, 1 cup white vinegar, 1 tbsp granulated sugar, 1 tsp kosher salt
For the Toum
- Split each garlic clove in half and remove the germ. Place the garlic in a large food processor and add the salt and half of the lemon juice. Blitz until the mixture resembles mulch.1 head garlic, ¾ tsp kosher salt, 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Scrape down the sides of the food processor and turn it on low. Slowly stream in the oil and blitz until lightly and fluffy. Add the remaining lemon juice and blitz for 30 seconds more. Transfer the toum to a bowl, cover, and chill until ready to use.1 cup neutral oil
For the Kofta
- Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Using cleans hands, mix the ingredients together until a cohesive mixture is formed.454g (1lb) ground lamb, ½ red onion, ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs, ¼ cup fresh mint, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cumin, ½ tsp ground coriander, fresh ground pepper
- Divide into 8 equal parts and form the koftas onto 8 metal kebab skewers. Using a cast iron griddle or grill, cook the koftas until lightly charred and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set them aside.
- Split a potato roll and slather with toum and mint sauce. Add a kofta and top with pickled onions and watercress. Serve immediately.½ cup mint sauce, 2 cups watercress