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  • Malai Kofta
    Spicy Vegetarian Dumplings

    TOOLS: For the koftas, you’ll need a sheet of cheesecloth or muslin; a large mixing bowl; a kadhai, wok, or heavy-bottomed pan; a slotted spoon; and a tray lined with paper towels or a dish cloth. For the curry, you’ll need a food processor; 3 small mixing bowls; a heavy-bottomed, 4-quart / 4-L sauté pan; a slotted spoon; and a high-powered blender or immersion blender.
    TRY THIS! Instead of frying, try baking the koftas. Set the oven rack at the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Arrange the koftas on a well-greased baking sheet about 1 inch / 3 cm apart. Cook for 40 to 60 minutes, until they are browned and cooked through. About halfway through the cooking time, remove the baking sheet from the oven and check to make sure they are not sticking. I use a spatula to loosen them up and then return them to the oven to finish cooking. You don’t want the bottoms of the koftas to be hard and crusty when you add them to the curry. Once cooked, remove the baking sheet from the oven and set aside to cool for 15 minutes before adding the koftas to the curry and serving.

    In Punjab, where there are so many vegetarians, koftas are like meatballs, but made with minced vegetables and spices. Though most Indian restaurants use potatoes, my mother remembers freshly fried koftas made with grated ghiya, or winter melon, from her childhood. You can also use grated green cabbage.

    For the THE KOFTAS:
    • 1 pound /450 g ghiya (winter melon), peeled and grated (will yield 3 cups / 710 mL)
    • ¼ cup /40 g finely diced yellow or red onion
    • 1 heaping tablespoon grated ginger
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
    • ½ teaspoon Garam Masala
    • ½ teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne pepper
    • ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon /40 g besan (gram or chickpea flour)
    • 2 cups /470 mL vegetable oil, for frying
    For the THE CURRY:
    • 1 large yellow or red onion, roughly chopped
    • 1 (1-inch / 3-cm) piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
    • 5 large cloves garlic, peeled
    • 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
    • 3 tablespoons /45 mL vegetable oil
    • 1 (3-inch/ 8-cm) stick cinnamon
    • 2 cassia or bay leaves
    • 4 green cardamom pods
    • 2 black cardamom pods
    • 2 teaspoons plus 1 pinch salt, divided
    • 1 tablespoon Garam Masala
    • 1 teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne pepper
    • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
    • 2 tablespoons Cashew Cream
    • 4 cups /950 mL boiling water
    • Brown or white basmati rice, Roti, or Naan, for serving
    For the THE KOFTAS:
    1. Place the ghiya in a sheet of cheesecloth or muslin and squeeze tightly with your hands, until the ghiya is as dry as possible. Once you have squeezed out the liquid, you will have 2 cups /470 mL of ghiya. Drink the water or add it to the curry recipe, as it has a lot of nutrients.
    2. Combine all the ingredients for the koftas, except the oil, in a large mixing bowl and stir until the mixture is evenly blended. Move quickly to Steps 3 through 5—you do not want this mixture to become watery.
    3. In a small kadhai, wok, or heavy-bottomed pan over medium–high to high heat, warm the oil (about 1 inch / 3 cm deep) until it’s hot—but just before it gets too hot. Test the oil by putting in a drop of batter. If it sizzles and immediately comes to the top, the oil is ready. If it falls to the bottom, the oil is not hot enough.
    4. Drop tablespoon-sized balls of dough, 1 at a time, into the hot oil. Depending on the size of the pan, cook 4 to 6 koftas at a time, being careful not to overcrowd.
    5. After 1 minute of cooking time, reduce the heat to medium. Don’t cook them in very, very hot oil, or they will sear on the outside and remain uncooked on the inside. Cook, turning halfway through the cooking time, for a total of 5 to 7 minutes, until the koftas are golden brown on all sides. Remove from the heat.
    6. Using a slotted spoon, remove the koftas to a tray lined with paper towels or a dish cloth to absorb the oil. Continue until you finish the batter. Remove from the heat.
    For the THE CURRY:
    1. In the bowl of a food processor, grind the onion into a watery paste. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and set aside. No need to clean the food processor bowl in between. Add the ginger and garlic to the food processor bowl and grind into a paste. Transfer to a second small mixing bowl and set aside. Again, no need to clean. Add the tomatoes to the food processor bowl and grind into a watery paste. Transfer to a third small mixing bowl and set aside.
    2. In a heavy-bottomed, 4-quart / 4-L sauté pan over medium–high heat, warm the oil. Add the cinnamon, cassia leaves, and green and black cardamom and cook for 40 seconds, until the spices sizzle and release their essential oils.
    3. Using a slotted spoon, add the ground onion from Step 1 to the sauté pan, leaving the onion water behind but reserving it for later use in Step 5. Add the pinch of the salt and cook, uncovered, for 6 minutes, until the onion is slightly browned and opaque.
    4. Add the ginger paste from Step 1 to the sauté pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the ground tomato from Step 1 and cook for 6 minutes. The paste will start to thicken and come together, and the oil will start to separate slightly.
    5. Add the onion water from Step 3, the Garam Masala, the red chile powder, the turmeric, the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt, and the Cashew Cream to the sauté pan. Cook, uncovered, for 6 minutes, until the ingredients come together. Add the water and allow the mixture to come to a boil.
    6. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and discard the cardamom pods. Remove from the heat.
    7. When finished cooking, transfer the curry to a blender or use an immersion blender in the sauté pan and process on high for 1 to 2 minutes. This last step really pulls the curry together.
    8. Return the curry to the sauté pan over medium heat. Fold the koftas into the curry and cook for 5 minutes, until warmed through. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes, until the koftas soften and absorb the flavors of the curry.
    9. Transfer the curry and koftas to a serving bowl. Serve immediately with the brown or white basmati rice, Roti, or Naan.

Indian For Everyone by Anupy Singla. Copyright © 2014 Anupy Singla. Published by Agate Publishing. All rights reserved.

© 2016 Alta Editions LLC.