Growing up,we ate at home daily. Dining out was at the most once in a month thing,that too usually in the form of a take out. No matter what was ordered,we always looked forward to it just because it was a different taste and broke the routine of everyday food. My uncle would get that dreamy, delicious special butter chicken and rotis from our favorite place in the town and that was it. In complete contrast to the way eating out is a way of life in today’s world, in those days it was considered a luxury.
Like most indian homes, our daily meals were whole wheat flat breads,steamed rice alongside lentils and simple vegetable or protein curry.Only when the craving turned to demand for something special aka restaurant like,it was best recreated in the home kitchen. On those once in a blue moon occasions that creamy curries and naan were cooked from scratch – usually for a birthday party or day of results or a wedding anniversary and the dinner table received its calorie laden share of adulation.
One of dishes I liked a lot from those days was malai kofta which is sort of a vegetarian version of meatballs in a tomato based rich sauce.It was fragrant and sweetish and nutty the way mom cooked it, paired beautifully well with fine flour flatbreads.
I rarely make creamy curries at home. Not that I don’t love them but I am a bit chicken to witness all that butter and cream business that they require.For last couple of weeks, I am hit with this intense craving to eat rich foods and I am cooking korma, biryanis and what not. I made this curry probably two or three times and it came out really good.
Malai (Creamy or Melt in the mouth) Kofta (dumpling/balls) is an extremely popular muglai dish in India. An orange hued sauce with pillowy,stuffed cheese and potato dumplings scattered in, just waiting to be scooped with soft bread (even though husband mixed it in with rice!). There is always a side of kachumber or salad or few cut up raw veggies to add freshness and a pickle (mostly this) to spice things up. As opposed to being baby food textured, the chunky sauce we prefer has little bits of cashews and raisins which pop in the mouth here and there.Yum!
Ingredients (Serves 3-4)
For the Koftas (Makes 12)
- 6 oz paneer
- 2 small potatoes,boiled
- 1.5-2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp of black pepper
- To stuff the koftas : 2-3 tbsp finely chopped nuts, raisins, cilanto, chili (optional)
- Oil for frying +more
For the Sauce
- 3-4 medium size tomatoes
- 1/2 ” cinnamon stick
- 1.5 cups water
- 5 tbsp oil
- 1 clove
- 2 small green cardamom,cracked open
- 1 small black cardamom, cracked open (substitute with green ones)
- 1 tejpatta (indian bay leaf)
- 1/3 cup ground onion paste (I use red, you could use yellow or white)
- 1 fat garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp ginger, minced
- 1 tsp corainder powder
- 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
- 1/4 tsp red chili powder
- 1/3 cup raw cashew paste
- 1/4 tsp(heaped) garam masala
- 1 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- 3-4 tbsp heavy cream
- 1-2 tbsp of golden raisins (optional)
- sugar (to taste)
- Stuffing the koftas is optional.You can fry up little balls of dough just as is and add to the sauce.
- You can replace the heavy cream with coconut cream to make this sauce vegan. Instead of paneer, you could make dumplings with grated squash, pumpkin or chopped greens and dunk them in that flavorful sauce. You could use tofu too but remember to adjust the quantity of corn starch needed for binding.
- I soak 15-20 raw cashews in warm water for 30 minutes and then blend them with water(as little as possible required) to make the paste. You could use ready to use cashew meal and make a thick paste with water instead.Even almonds or melon/sunflower seeds (for nut allergic) can be used in this recipe but the taste will change completely.
- The sauce from this recipe is more spicy(in a nice way) than sweet. Since I use raisins, we didn’t feel the need to add sugar but you can add sugar to taste at the end.
Making the Koftas
Fine grate the paneer and potatoes.In a bowl, mix both with cornstarch, pepper and salt. Mix and mash to get a smooth,lump free dough. Moisten you palms with oil,take a small portion of dough and flatten it between your palms. Place a very small quantity of chopped dry fruits, cilantro etc in the center. Bring the edges together and seal completely. Take care not to put too much of a stuffing else the koftas will burst open while frying. Make all the koftas in similar fashion and set on a plate. Refrigerate the koftas for about 15 minutes before frying. Meanwhile you can start making the sauce as below.
Shallow fry or deep fry the koftas on medium heat until golden brown on each sides.Drain on a paper towel and set aside.
Making the Sauce
In a small pot, bring 1.5 cups of water to boil. Using a sharp knife, make light incisions on the top of the tomatoes. Once water is boiling, add cinnamon stick to it along with the tomatoes. Let boil for 5-8 minutes, such that the skin of tomatoes starts coming off. Take out the tomatoes using a slotted spoon, let cool and reserve the water. Discard the cinnamon.
Once the tomatoes are cooled,peel off the skins and blend them. Set aside.
Heat up the oil in a large pot and temper it with cloves, tejpatta and cardamom.Wait till they crackle,about 30 seconds.Add the onion paste to next along with minced garlic and ginger.Saute for 5-6 minutes till starting to turn light brown.
Add the coriander, turmeric, chili powder next and sauté for less than a minute. Add the blended tomatoes and cashew paste and reduce heat to low.Let cook slowly till you see little bubbles of oil separating on sides of the pan and the paste glistening. At this point, first taste and adjust the salt and add the reserved water depending on how thick/thin you want the sauce. (I usually add 1 cup of water and reserve the rest for later since the curry thickens later/next day). Also add the kasuri methi and garam masala(if using). On low heat, let the sauce simmer for 10-15 minutes till it thickens.
Add the heavy cream and raisins next and simmer (not boil) on very low heat for another 2-3 minutes.Once the sauce has simmered, let sit for at least 45mins-1hour or till ready to serve.
Once ready to serve, warm up the sauce and add koftas to it. Once you have added the koftas, do not touch with spoon much else they will break.
Serve immediately. You can garnish with cilantro, cashews or grated paneer.
Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!