Turkey, Pancetta and Sweet Corn Koftas with Tomato Chutney

Recipe courtesy Naomi J. Mobed
Image by David Lorenzo Lopez

This oven-baked kofta recipe is a quick and easy weeknight meal or an unfussy canapé. Born from my love of a similar meatball I used to devour at Ottolenghi’s chic deli in Nottinghill, London and New Jersey’s famous white corn, this ode to turkey would not be complete without a flourish of sweet, rose and telicherry peppers that add just a hint of smokiness to make this humble meatball ever-so interesting! Serves 12 if eaten as canapé (4-6 for main size portion with a salad).


8 oz. sweetcorn kernels (preferably fresh but frozen will do)
2-3 tbsp. sunflower oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 lb. minced free-range or organic turkey (light and dark meat, ideally)
½ lb. pancetta diced finely
3 slices of stale white bread, crusts removed
1 free-range egg
4 spring onions, finely chopped into rounds
4-6 red Thai red chilis, finely chopped (depending on desired heat level)
3 tbsp. finely chopped dill
2 tbsp. finely chopped coriander
2 tbsp. finely chopped mint
2 tbsp. pink peppercorns
1 tbsp. fresh lemon zest
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp. minced ginger
2 tsp. ground cumin (toasted)
1 tsp. crushed coriander seeds (toasted)
1 tsp. dried mint
2 tsp. Izak (#37 blend from La Boîte NY)
1½ tsp. sea salt
¾ tsp. cracked telicherry black pepper (toasted)


2 cups labneh
Fresh lemon juice to taste
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ cup coarsely chopped coriander
½ cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
¼ cup coarsely chopped dill
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh lemon zest
2-3 finely chopped seeded serrano chilies
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Cracked telicherry black pepper – to taste
Sea salt – to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add chopped onion with ¼  tsp. salt, and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, 10–15 minutes. Set aside and cool. Place a heavy, non-stick frying pan over high heat and throw in the corn kernels. Toss them in the hot pan for 2–3 minutes, until lightly blackened. Remove and leave to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, add turkey meat, chopped pancetta, egg, cooled onions and corn. Soak the bread in cold water for a minute, then squeeze well and crumble it into the bowl with the meat and onion mixture.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix well with your hands. With wet hands, shape the mince mix into balls, about the size of golf balls (use an icecream scoop to align size acoss batch) and place them onto a lined baking sheet.

Cook for 10 minutes and then turn the oven up to 475°F and set to broil for a further 5-10 minutes. Watch carefully, because they will brown easily and you may need to leave the oven door slightly ajar to prevent burning.

When you press one with your finger, the meat should bounce back. If unsure, break one open to check that it is cooked inside. Serve hot or warm, with the Tomato and White Sultana Chutney with ginger & garam masala and/or herbed labneh (optional) on the side.

To prepare the labneh, season with salt and pepper, add lemon juice to taste and thin with water, if necessary, to the consistency of thick sour cream. Then, stir in the remaining ingredients and mix.

Do ahead: kofta can be made 3 days ahead; transfer to an airtight container and chill, or freeze up to 6 months.

Substitution: if you do not have turkey meat, then, use chicken or veal.


This labneh uses ready made yogurt.
Makes approximately 2 cups

4 cups whole milk, full-fat yogurt (not greek yogurt)
Muslin or cheese cloth
Kitchen string

Line a large bowl with muslin and pour yoghurt into the cloth. Gather edges of cheesecloth to cover yogurt and tie with a string. Use the string to create a loop and tie around a tap on your kitchen sink. Let drain for 4-12 hours depending on how firm you want the labneh.

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