This is really good. REALLY good. Rich, warming, flavorful. But it’s not a quick dinner. The work is worth it, I promise you. Tackle it when you are in the mood to relax, drink a glass of wine, listen to some music and have fun creating good vegetarian food. I got some of those checklist items correct, but the kids were running around, saying they were making exercise routines in the living room and fighting with wrapping paper cardboard tubes, begging me for peppermint tea and panettone and quite obviously not doing their homework. They made it hard to relax into the dinner-making ritual but I was compensated in a wonderful way. They ate it! After polishing off her rice and vegetables, my daughter ate three koftas dipped in the madras curry and said they were delicious. She didn’t fancy the ones I’d cooked in the sauce and that’s fine. My son didn’t do as great–just one–but one is better than none so that’s fine too.
To get started, the first thing is to make a quick madras curry paste. There are other spices that could go in this like fenugreek and fennel seeds, cardamom, chilies, curry leaves, but this will do just fine:
Simple madras curry paste
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black pepper ground (or peppercorns)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1) Grind the coriander, cumin and mustard seeds (and whole peppercorns if you like) in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Mix with the garam masala, chili and turmeric powders and the garlic and ginger.
2) Heat up the olive oil in a frying pan and fry all the spices on a low heat for a few minutes. Spoon the paste into a clean jar. Any leftover paste can be frozen.
I found this kofta recipe on the Veggie num num blog. I have simplified this dish quite a bit. It’s a wednesday night after all! If you want to go full throttle, follow her recipe for a complete meal with chapatis and raita.
Red lentil koftas
makes about 15 or 20 small koftas, serves 2-4 ppl depending on side dishes
1 cup red lentils
2 cups of water
1/2 onion, minced
1 bay leaf
just a pinch of parsley, oregano and thyme
salt and pepper
2-3 tsp homemade madras paste
panko or other breadcrumbs
3/4 cup almond meal or ground cashews
1) Rinse the red lentils and strain
2) Add the lentils, water, 1/2 the minced onion, bay leaf, salt and pepper, and parsley, oregano and thyme to a pot and bring to a boil.
3) Turn down and simmer with the lid on until the lentils are cooked and mushy. There should be no water left. Leave to cool.
4) Add the cooled lentils to a bowl along with the 1/2 minced onion, almond meal (or powdered cashews), salt and pepper and the madras curry paste. Add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of panko or bread crumbs and mix together. If the consistency is good enough to form into small balls then don’t add anymore breadcrumbs. The kofta batter should be very soft and moist, but still hold together. Taste the kofta batter and add a little more salt and pepper if needed.
5) Form into small kofta balls and bake on a prepared tray (baking parchment works) in the oven at 350 until just golden brown. You may need to turn them once or twice to brown all sides.
For the final curry
2 tbs homemade madras paste
1 200g tin of finely chopped tomatoes or passata
1/2 tin of coconut milk (the thick creamy part)
splash of water
1-2 tsp of sugar
salt and pepper
squeeze of lime (optional)
fresh cilantro (optional)
1) Heat up the olive oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan and add the curry paste, tomatoes and coconut milk.
2) Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer.
3) Add salt and pepper and tsp of sugar.
4) The sauce will be simmered until it reduces and thickens–about 10 minutes. At the halfway point, add the koftas in and cook them in the sauce.
5) Turn the koftas over carefully (they are fragile) to cook on all sides. They may break up a little but this adds to the sauce and helps thicken it.
We ate this with plain white basmati and green vegetables. It would be fabulous as part of a larger Indian feast or as a veggie alternative to the old party staple–meatballs in crockpot.