The Beer Lover’s Table: Pork Kofta Kebabs with Labneh & Rocket and Reutberger Josefi Bock

The arrival of spring means rain showers and growing things, but in beer circles, it also means bock. German bockbiers—which you’ll recognise because their labels are almost always festooned with prancing goats—are traditionally released in the spring after having been brewed and lagered during the cold winter months.

Many beer drinkers are probably familiar with rich, malty doppelbocks, but helles bocks (also known as heller bocks or maibocks) are also worth your while. Reasonably strong but paler in colour than your average doppelbock, these beers are less malt-driven and have a stronger hop presence than their darker cousins.

Brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast, Reutberger’s example of the style is a tawny-hued lager with brilliant clarity. It brings mellow sweetness rather than lingering bitterness—its finish is all toffee and caramel, courtesy of its 50-50 split of light and dark malts.

As with most malt-led German beers, Josefi Bock loves pork. I toyed for a while with pairing it with various braised recipes before settling on something quicker and—while still hearty—slightly fresher. Very much a riff on a classic kofta kebab, this recipe both subs pork for the more traditional lamb and adds a rogue element in the form of an
apricot glaze. Rather than being oversweet, the glaze adds fruitiness and complexity that marry well with the pork while picking up the toffee notes in the beer beautifully.

To tie it all together, I added labneh (Greek yoghurt’s tangy, cheese-like cousin), fruity Aleppo pepper flakes, peppery rocket and fresh mint. Throw the lot together on whatever flatbread you fancy, and wrap it up in foil: this isn’t one for the forks and knives.

Pork Kofta Kebabs with Labneh and Rocket
Serves 4

For the pork koftas:
8 metal or bamboo skewers
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
750g 20% minced pork
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sumac
2 large echalion shallots, finely chopped
1.5 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the apricot glaze:
2.5 tablespoons apricot jam
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon soy sauce

To serve:
4 large, round flatbreads of your choice (pita, naan, etc.)
Approximately 350g labneh (substitute Greek yoghurt if unavailable)
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Several handfuls rocket
Large bunch mint
1 lemon
Aleppo chilli flakes

1. First, make the koftas. If using bamboo skewers, submerge in water and leave to soak. In a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle, roughly grind the fennel and coriander seeds. Add to a large bowl with the minced pork and the rest of your spices, the shallots, salt and pepper. Work through with your hands until evenly mixed. If you want to check
the seasoning, place a teaspoon-sized amount of the pork mix on a plate and microwave for 20 seconds. Taste and adjust accordingly. Place the pork mix in the fridge and leave to chill for 1 hour. 

2. Remove the skewers from the water and pat to dry. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top of it. Wet a paper towel with vegetable oil and grease the wire rack, so the koftas won’t stick.

3. Remove the pork mixture from the fridge and divide it into two. Set one half aside and divide the other into four even portions. Take one portion and pat it until it’s slightly flattened and rectangular. Place a skewer in the middle and shape the meat around it. Gently roll and compress the meat with your hands until it is a roughly 7–8-inch log, with the skewer running evenly through the length of it. Place on the wire rack-fitted baking sheet. Repeat with the three other portions, and then with the remaining half of the pork. Place the whole tray of koftas in the fridge and leave to chill for roughly 45 minutes.

4. Heat the grill/broiler on your oven to medium-high. Place the kofta tray in for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until the tops have darkened in colour. Remove and flip the skewers over and return to the grill/broiler and cook for 5-7 minutes more.

5. As the koftas are cooking, make your apricot glaze. Add all five ingredients to a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook down for 2-3 more minutes, or until the glaze is syrupy and very thick. Remove from the heat and pour into a small bowl or ramekin.

6. Once the koftas have darkened on both sides, remove from the oven. Use a pastry brush to brush the glaze on one side of the koftas and return to the grill for 2-3 minutes, or until they’re starting to look browned and caramelised. Flip the skewers, brush with the rest of the glaze, and cook for 2-3 minutes more.

7. Just before serving, heat the flatbreads in the grill/broiler for 1 minute per side until warmed through (you may need to do this in several batches). Arrange each flatbread over a sheet of foil. Dollop a good amount of labneh or yoghurt in the centre of each flatbread and swipe into a long vertical stripe. Season the labneh with flaky salt and a
generous pinch of Aleppo chilli flakes. Top with a good handful of rocket and roughly torn mint leaves. Squeeze lemon juice over the greens and then arrange two koftas on top. Season the meat with additional Aleppo chilli flakes. Carefully fold over both sides of the flatbread to cover the filling and tightly wrap with the foil, folding up the foil at the base
to prevent any leaks. Serve immediately.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and pick up a bottle of Reutberger Josefi Bock while you can.