Food brings cultures and people together. There are numerous examples of food items that bring cultures close as they evolve according to the local flavours.
One such example is the Kofta. Kofta is derived from the Persian “kufta,” which means “to beat” or to “grind”. To explain in simple words Kofta, is minced or ground meat balls mixed with spices, herbs and seasonings. The meat is often mixed with other ingredients such as rice, bulgur, vegetables or eggs to form a smooth paste and to enhance the taste and texture of the meatball.
There are vegetarian varieties made from bottle gourd, potato, cottage cheese, minced vegetables and they are mainly popular in India due to the large vegetarian population in the region. Adding vegetables to kofta helps to keep them moist while cooking and also add fibre to the dish along with essential nutrients. There is a seafood version of the kofta which is made with minced fish and vegetables and is either steamed, or simmered in its own sauce. The usual shape of a koftas is round but in Arabic countries it is shaped like a torpedo or a tear drop shape.
It is difficult to trace the exact history of any traditional food item, but we can always draw conclusions about kofta and its present form.
It won’t be right to say that the meat used for this dish is bad, but initially this dish was made using leftover trimmings available after carving out the good meaty chunks. For example, you won’t mince a good tenderloin or a corn-fed organic chicken breast to make a burger patty – you’ll obviously use the leftover meat trimmings and would heavily season the patty it to make it more flavourful. Even today you would not buy super expensive prime quality of meat to make your kofta – you’ll always prefer to choose an inexpensive meat piece to mince, which will eventually turn into a kofta.
Traditional kofta recipes call for adding rice, or lentils to increase the volume and thus make more of the dish with a particular quantity of meat. Other recipes involving ground meat call for adding breadcrumbs, soy or other ingredients to increase the net yield of the product. This technique focused on feeding more people on less meat.
The mince meat dishes are more popular and adaptive during winters, as they provide warmth and are easy to prepare in short time and good for the entire family to savour. You can let the koftas simmer as you slowly go about your dinner.
Nowadays, kofta recipes are very innovative and chefs always come up with ideas to give this traditional dish a new dimension. Once you master the art of making kofta, you can always stuff them with nuts and dried fruits to make them more exotic. If the meat balls break while simmering, then add an egg white and rub the mixture properly to bind it together.
One golden cooking tip that I would like to share today with my readers is that recipe is just one part of cooking – the other part is learning how to improvise and make your own dish with the ingredients you have available to you.
Rich Lamb Kofta
Lamb ground 500 gm
Yellow onion, fine chopped 50 gm
Carrots, grated 40 gm
Garlic, minced 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
Crushed black pepper to taste
Cinnamon powder 1/3 tsp
Mint powder 1 tsp
Saffron few strands
parsley, chopped 2 tbsp
walnuts 1/2 cup (optional)
Olive oil 1/2 tbsp
Ginger, chopped 1 tsp
Garlic, chopped 2 tsp
Onion, chopped 1/2 cup
Tomato puree 1 cup
Salt to taste
Turmeric, powder 1/2 tsp
Garam masala 1/2 tsp
Paprika powder 1/2 tsp
Mint sprig to garnish
Cream to garnish
Fried onion to garnish
In a clean dry bowl, combine lamb mince with onion, carrot and spices.
Mix well to combine the seasoning and to get a smooth paste.
In a heavy bottom pan, simmer water with salt.
Using a table spoon scoop of the lamb mince mixture and roll them in palms to get a smooth meatball.
Once you are confident about making meatballs, you can add chopped walnuts to the mincemeat centre to make a walnut stuffed kofta.
Simmer in water for 8-10 minutes or until the lamb is cooked; remove and keep aside.
In a separate heavy bottom pan, heat oil and sauce chopped ginger garlic till light brown.
Add chopped onion and continue to sauté till light brown, add salt, turmeric, garam masala, paprika powder and tomato paste.
Add moisture if required, simmer for 10 minutes till the raw flavour evaporates.
Blend to a smooth consistency and return to flame, add the prepared meatballs and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
Finish with cream and serve hot, garnished with mint leaves, fried onion and cream drizzle and naan bead or rice on the side.
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