Known as kari kola urundai kuzhambu, this recipe for kofta curry is a Chettinad specialty. There is something about meatballs that only meat-eaters can understand. Done as this recipe suggests, you have some moderately spiced meatballs in a spicy sauce.
You need to make the right-sized koftas. Golf-ball sized koftas are too small, cricket balls are too big. As described in the recipe you have 12 koftas, about the size of billiard balls. Just right for four people.
Having said that, you could make cocktail sized koftas. Make them at golf ball size, and reduce the cooking time appropriately. Don’t bother making the sauce, just serve them straight from the oven.
This recipe for the koftas is very like recipes from across the Mediterranean and the Arab world. Minced lamb, mint and spices is a common preparation that exists from Spain through Greece and across to the Northern African countries. This commonality may well be the influence from the times of Alexander the Great.
I am amazed at how rarely I see this dish in Indian restaurants. It does lend itself to preparation in advance, and the sauce could well be made in “curry house” style. As presented here it is a family recipe, and it well suited to a special dinner.
So you are a vegetarian, and have read this far? Well, as it happens there is a vegetarian version in this book, called malai subzi kofta that just may suit your needs.
You will need to start this recipe at least the day before to marinate the lamb.
- 800 g lamb leg – minced
for the marinade
for the koftas
- ½ cup chickpea flour – (besan)
for the sauce
- 2 tbsp mustard oil
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 12 curry leaves
- 3 dried Kashmiri chillies – broken into pieces
- 1 brown onion – chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 400 g tomatoes – seeds and pulp removed, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic – minced
- ½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 250 ml tamarind water
- 200 ml thick coconut milk
- salt – to taste
- 1 cup coriander leaves
- Heat a small pan over medium heat. Once hot, put the coriander and cumin seeds into the heated pan. Toast the spices until they become aromatic. This will only take a few minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before transferring to a spice grinder. Grind spices to a fine powder.
- Put the lamb in a large bowl. Add the ground coriander and cumin seeds, onion, ginger, garam masala, chilli powder, salt, coriander stalks, mint and yoghurt. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least overnight.
for the koftas
- Pre-heat oven to 175C.
- Take the mixture and divide into 12 portions of around 100g each. Wet your hand and form into balls. Now, with dry hands, dust with chickpea flour, and gently shape again.
- Place koftas on an oven tray in a single layer and bake for 45 minutes, turning every 10 minutes, making sure that the koftas retain their ball shape.
for the sauce
- Heat a small pan over medium heat. Once hot, put the coriander seeds into the heated pan. Toast them until they become aromatic. This will only take a few minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before transferring to a spice grinder. Grind them to a fine powderand set aside
- Heat mustard oil in a pan big enough to just take the cooked koftas in a single layer. A 24cm pan should suffice.
- When the mustard oil stops smoking, and appears translucent, allow to cool a little, then add mustard seeds, fennel seeds, curry leaves and dried chillies. Return to heat, and cook until mustard seeds begin to splutter.
- Add the onions and salt and cook for ten minutes, stirring frequently until onions start to brown at the edges.
- Add the turmeric, tomatoes, garlic and 250ml of water, then simmer until the tomatoes soften.
- Add chilli powder and ground coriander seeds. Stir well and cook for another two minutes.
- Add the tamarind water and cook for a further two minutes.
- Using a vegetable masher, or a stick blender, puree the sauce, getting as many large pieces of tomato reduced. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a very low simmer.
- Add the juices from the cooked koftas to the mixture, then mix well. Gently add the koftas in a single layer, ensuring they are coated with the sauce.
- Poach koftas in sauce for 30 minutes, gently turning every five minutes.
- Removethe koftas from sauce, and place into serving dish. Stir the sauce, and gently add coconut milk. Season with salt, to taste, then pour sauce over koftas, sprinkle with coriander and serve.
- Use the leanest minced lamb you can obtain.
- Be careful with the size of the koftas. Golf-ball sized koftas are too small, cricket balls are too big. You should have 12 koftas, each about billiard ball size.