INGREDIENTS – MEATBALLS
½ inch ginger root (½ inch more later)
1 onion (1 onion more later)
1¼ pounds ground beef (80% is best)
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt (¼ teaspoon more later)
¼ cup chickpea (garbanzo) flour
INGREDIENTS – SAUCE
1 garlic clove
½ inch ginger root
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup full fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon coriander
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon turmeric
2 cups water
½ cup fresh (3 tablespoons if dry) tarragon, cilantro, or parsley
food processor or blender
Serves 6. Takes 45 minutes.
PREPARATION – MEATBALLS
Add ½” ginger root and 1 medium onion to food processor or blender. Blend until you get paste. Beat egg in small bowl. Add ginger root/onion paste, egg, and all other meatball ingredients to large mixing bowl. Mix ingredients with hands until well blended. Form mix into 1″ meatballs.
PREPARATION – SAUCE
Mince garlic clove, ½” ginger root, and 1 onion. Add garlic, ginger, onion, and oil to pan. Sauté for 5 minutes at medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until onion softens. Stir frequently. Add coriander, red pepper flakes, salt, turmeric, water, and yogurt. Reduce heat to low. Blend with fork.
Add meatballs. Simmer at warm-low heat for 30 minutes. Stir gently and occasionally. While meatballs simmer in sauce, mince tarragon. Garnish meatballs and sauce with tarragon.
1) Koftay is an Ancient Urartian word meaning meatball.
2 Urartu was an ancient kingdom with lands in what is now eastern Turkey.
3) Urarti civilization thrived under King Sarduri I (832 BC – 820).
4) He formed the fierce Urartian Guard. These proud horsemen swept everything before them.
5) Indeed, the floors of Sarduri’s palace were as clean as anything. Hence, the well-know saying, “As tidy as Sarduri.”
6) Yeah, you could have a safe operation on his tiled floors.
7) And people did. Especially since the Urartian Guard’s practice of riding into battle with brooms meant they incurred quite a few casualties.
8) But it was okay, they were sewn up and were as good as new.
9) Ordinary Urartians noticed the medical success of Sarduri’s palace. They clamored for equal treatment. In 827 the king granted universal health care to his grateful subjects. He could afford this as his other band of horsemen, Urartian Band, armed with lances, sacked one city after another. The gold coins they looted all flowed into the king’s coffers while the meatballs they carried off went to the people
10) Sarduri assessed his people a 10% copay for health care. The coinage starved inhabitants paid in koftay. Our modern word “copay” derives from this concept.
11) However, the Urartian empire declined soon after the king’s death, and eventually disappeared. So did the concept of koftay health care.
12) Universal health care system resurfaced briefly in the late Roman Republic when the reforming Gracchi brothers proposed reinstating koftay. However, the patrician nobility refused. Indeed, they killed the reformers. The Republic soon fell, then did the Empire, followed by barbarian invasions. The Dark Ages of Europe would stretch on for a millennium.
13) However, universal health care would come back to Europe in the late twentieth century. Not so much in America.
14) That’s because Italy loves meatballs so much more than the United States. However, we do have the concept of copay for our private health-care system. We owe this idea to the innovative Urartians and their scrumptious meatballs.
15) Now you know.
– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef
My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.