Saturday, 24 March 2012

Vegetarian Cufte (kind of like veggie meatballs...)

I'll be very honest about this one! I found this recipe on the internet when I was researching Bosnian food and I have some reservations about it's authenticity as traditional Bosnian cuisine. It has several ingredients in it that I wouldn't even remotely associate with Bosnia - tofu, mustard, soy sauce and sesame oil?? But - I'm no Bosnian so I'm not really in a position to comment on it's authenticity (maybe a Bosnian reader could help me out with this one?).

Bosnian or not, I really wanted to try these because the combination of flavours sounded so intriguing! Toasted almonds, dijon mustard, sesame oil, fennel seeds, cayenne pepper, caraway seeds and basil seemed like the most exotic combination of flavours which I would never have dreamed of mixing all together in the one ball!

Initially I was pondering whether or not to post this one up for a few reasons: 1) because I wasn't sure if they really were very Bosnian!, 2) because they didn't really photograph well and 3) because it wasn't really my own recipe (and I like to post up only original recipes where possible!). In the end though these three reasons fell at the feet of the fact that these Cufte were delicious! In the end this blog is really about sharing great flavours and recipes with everyone and not really about competition-winning photography or authentic world cuisine. It's about sharing new experiences and new dishes with people because of how they taste not because of how they look or where they came from! I'm also blogging it for my friend Paul who helped me make them because I'm pretty sure he is dying to make them again and needs the recipe :)

One thing you really must appreciate when you cook these is the smell that you are subject to while they're baking! The sesame oil and spices in this give off the most delicious aroma. Paul and I kept hovering around the oven and opening the door a crack to breathe in the goodness - kind of like some sort of scent addicts. But it doesn't stop at the aroma - because of the complex flavour combinations these babies have a beginning, a middle and an end like all good stories (and food). First, you taste the sesame oil and soy sauce, then suddenly the middle hits you and it tastes like herbs and spices - the basil, the fennel and the caraway with a hint of toasted almond. Finally, just when you think you have experienced it all you suddenly realise you mouth is tingling with the cayenne pepper!

2 onions, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 carrots, grated
4 tbsp arrowroot powder
2/3 cup cold water
2 cups breadcrumbs
1 cup almonds, toasted lightly in a dry frying pan for a few minutes
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp fennel seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp caraway seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder
3 tbsp fresh basil (or 1 tbsp dried basil)
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 tsp dried Italian herb mix
1/2 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
900g hard tofu (this means that it should be very solid and should keep it shape when you squeeze it)

To Make:
1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
2. Heat the oil in a large fry pan and sauté the onions and garlic until golden. Add the carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, or until carrots are softened and cooked.
3.. Dissolve the arrowroot in the cold water and stir well until the mixture is completely smooth and watery.
4. Grind the toasted almonds finely in a food processor (or substitute ground almonds but they won't have the same toasted quality).
5. Squeeze any liquid you can out of the tofu and crumble finely into a very big mixing bowl. Add sautéed veggies, dissolved arrowroot and all remaining ingredients to the bowl. Mix well - the best way to do this is to just get your hands right into it.
6. Line a tray with baking paper and roll the mix into large balls (about the size of a billiard ball). This mix should make about 32. Alternately, get some spunky guy that appears in your kitchen to do it:

7. Spray lightly with olive oil and bake in the oven for 10 minutes (you may want to turn them around about half way to ensure even cooking).

Makes 32 cufte.

Check out our other Bosnian recipes:


  1. Did you ever find out if these are Bosnian?

    1. Nobody ever got in touch with me to say that they were or that they weren't!

  2. Now, I am not a Vegan but I am Bosnian and I must say these look DELICIOUS! However, traditional Bosnian "Cufte" are made with ground beef and very simple spices such a garlic, onion, salt, pepper, vegeta, and sometimes a pinch of paprika. I grew up eating traditional Bosnian cuisine since my entire family is 100% Bosnian, but our food is so rich and high in fat, and being very into health and fitness myself I had to find a way to tweak the recipes in order to make them edible for myself.
    That doesn't mean that I will ever turn down one of my mama's home cooked, very high fat, yet very delicious meals!

    1. Thanks for your feedback Elma! Like I said, they didn't seem very Bosnian :) Authentic or not these ones are delicious.