Kashmiri koftas

If you were going to parse the series of menus in my blog, I really have to wonder what you would think as you were reading – something like: there’s this lady who has a blog and all she does is write about Indian food and sausages – weird!  All I can say in my defense is that my mom is English and the English have a thing about curries and bangers, although not usually on the same menu.

Kashmiri koftas are kind of like a curried banger – or at least a curried sausage and that is what I made for dinner tonight. Lamb, ginger and other Indian spices are browned then braised with yogurt, cardamom, cinnamon and bay. As I was cooking, I lifted the lid over the simmering pan and just closed my eyes and inhaled. The word that came to mind was “heady”. Heady with subcontinental spices. I was transported. And after a week of school auctions, procurements, meetings and the like (I won’t bore you with the details), that is just what I needed – to be somewhere else. Preferably somewhere sub-tropically hot, where the food is really, really good.  Cooking another culture is my escape – a cheap trip out of here.

Most of today’s menu came from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery and if you don’t have this book already, I have to recommend you run out and get yourself the updated version, Indian Cooking, and cook your way through. One year I gave Indian Cookery to every member of my family (I guess I can be a bit of a zealot). I think my brother Jonny uses it occasionally. But it pays to be fearless if you have to cook all the time.

You see, when I make dinner from Indian Cookery, I am never bored. I never feel as if I am stuck in a terrible complacent rut where the kids dictate our every bite. So many parents cower before their children, who act like little dictators, falling apart if the food isn’t blandly familiar. I would be really sad not to eat with my kids, exposing them to all the things I love (there are so many things!), teaching them the pleasures of tasting and eating together. The kids gobbled dinner tonight – they were really talking to me and to each other about what made it taste so good. I bet we’ll arm wrestle for the leftovers tomorrow.

Yet Another Indian Menu

  • Kashmiri Kofta – Lamb Meatballs
  • Aloo Gobi – Spicy Cauliflower and Potatoes
  • Raita – Cucumber and Yogurt Salad
  • Greens with Major Grey’s Dressing

Tips

  • Please, don’t be put off by all the spices. Go to the bulk section of a reputable grocer and buy 3 tbsp of each one – labeling them carefully. (if you forgot to do that – it would be so terrible and confusing!) Even though the list of spices is long, all it takes is a little measuring. Don’t buy the glass jars – you’ll spend an arm and a leg.
  • Read over all four recipes first, then measure out the spices for all the recipes at once.  I have a bunch of odd little bowls for this purpose. Combine the measured spices, as the recipe states, into the bowls so you can add them in groups as required. The rest is incredibly easy.
  • There are ground roasted cumin seeds in both the aloo gobi and the raita – roast all the cumin seeds at the same time.  Take the seeds and put them in a heavy bottomed small pan over medium heat. Push around with a wooden spoon until fragrant. Don’t ignore them, they’ll burn in a matter of seconds.  The whole toasting process should take about 2 minutes. Grinding in a mortar and pestle – about 15 seconds. Build the roasting and grinding into the measuring process, before you start the actual recipes. Roasted cumin seeds are very easy to grind with a mortar and pestle. My nine year old did it for me. I also have a coffee grinder reserved for grinding spices.
  • Use a Microplane grater to grate the ginger.
  • Cut up the cauliflower and start it soaking before you start.
  • Steam the potatoes while the Koftas are simmering.

Kashmiri Koftas

(serves 6)

The Koftas

  • 2 lbs ground lamb
  • a piece of ginger, 1 1/2″ x 1″ – more or less – grated
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp yogurt

The Braising Liquid

  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 7-8 tbsp vegetable oil
  • a 2″ stick of cinnamon
  • 5-6 whole cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5-6 whole cloves
  • 8 oz warm water
  1. Combine all the ingredients for the koftas in a medium sized bowl, and mix well using your hands.
  2. Wet your hands with water and form 24 koftas, in sausage shapes,about 2 1/2-3″ long and 1″ thick.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium high heat.  When hot, put in the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, bay leaves and whole cloves. Stir to coat with oil.
  4. Add all the koftas in a single layer to the pan and fry until they are lightly browned on all sides – about 2 minutes a side.
  5. While they are browning, stir the yogurt into the warm water. Pour over the koftas and bring to a simmer. The liquid will look very watery – that is intentional.
  6. Simmer for 1/2 an hour, turning the koftas every 10 minutes. At the end of 1/2 an hour, the liquid should have boiled away, leaving only the vegetable oil. If you need to, turn up the heat to reduce the liquid.
  7. With a slotted spoon, lift the koftas out of the pan to a platter or plates.  Leave behind any leftover liquid and spices.

Aloo Gobi – Cauliflower and Potatoes

(serves 4-6)

Aloo gobi is one of my all time favorite foods and so I have to put it in my blog. I can’t apologize for all the ways that cumin appears: whole, ground and roasted and ground. I know it seems like a lot of work especially if you’ve never roasted and ground spices before. Just try it. Trust me.  Do once or twice and you’ll see how easy it is.

  • 1/2 lb small potatoes – like fingerlings or use leftover cooked and peeled russet potatoes
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, broken into 1″ – 1 1/2″ florets
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds

Combine in a small bowl:

  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 -1 fresh jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground roasted cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  1. Steam the potatoes if you have fingerlings. Cut small potatoes in half or cube leftover potatoes into 3/4″ cubes. You needn’t peel fingerlings – their skins are so thin.
  2. Soak cauliflower in a bowl of cold water for 1/2 an hour. Drain.
  3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When hot, add the whole cumin seeds and let sizzle for a few seconds.
  4. Add the cauliflower and stir for 2 minutes.  Let the cauliflower get little brown caramelized spots on it.
  5. Cover and simmer for 4-6 minutes or until the cauliflower is almost done – with the merest crispness left in it.
  6. Add all the ingredients in the bowl and the potatoes to the skillet and stir gently and thoroughly for 3 or 4 minutes until potatoes are warmed through.

Raita – Cucumber and Yogurt Salad

  • 2 1/2 cups of  full fat yogurt
  • 1/2 an English cucumber, peeled and then grated on the large holes of a box grater, any juices discarded
  • 1/2 tsp ground, roasted cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate covered, until ready to eat.

Major Grey’s Dressing

This is so NOT an authentic recipe.  I found it in the back of Gourmet in 1994. Perhaps you will find it too sweet.  I love it on butter lettuce with cucumbers and avocados.

  • 1/4 cup Major Grey’s chutney
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

In a blender mix the first 5 ingredients.  Slowly, in a thin steady stream, add the vegetable oil.


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