I noted in my #GrapeGate post yesterday that I would have a recipe for turkey koftas today and here it is; or at least here’s a recipe for a kofta “curry” made with turkey. I guess you could serve it at Thanksgiving but frankly I don’t recommend making this with turkey at all (though don’t be surprised if you see this listed as Minnesota’s Thanksgiving dish in the NY Times next year). It’s what I used because ground turkey is what we had in the fridge. It’s much better made with ground goat or lamb or even beef; turkey is much too lean which can result in koftas/meatballs that are too tightly compacted or dry (there’s no bread or milk added to the meat in Indian meatball preps that I know of). I made this with what’s at hand because that’s what home cooks do—if you’re going to go shopping to make this then get fattier meat.
By the way, I put “curry” in quotes up top because it’s kind of a word of convenience. It’s not really used much, if at all, in Indian languages other than English, and even in English Indians usually use it only to refer to dishes with a lot of sauce. In the West, of course, “curry” or “curried” is used more broadly to refer to anything made with vaguely Indian spices. And, by the way, what is referred to as sauce in the West is usually called gravy in Indian English; “sauce” is mostly our word for ketchup. Anyway, on to the recipe! (This time with more pictures.)
To make the koftas:
- 1 lb ground meat, preferably goat or beef:
- One small onion (about 1/2 cup): chopped
- The following ground to a coarse powder: 1/2 tsp red chilli powder, a large pinch of black peppercorns, 1 small pinch of cumin seeds, 1 small pinch of fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon Kasoori methi (a type of dried fenugreek leaves)
For the “curry”:
- The following whole spices: 1 dried cassia leaf (I again used a bay leaf here), 2-3 cloves, 4-5 green cardamom pods, 1 1-2 inch piece cassia bark or cinnamon
- One large onion (about 1 cup’s worth)
- 1 large garlic clove (about 1/2 tspn)
- About as much ginger as garlic
- The following ground to a coarse powder: 1/2-1 tsp red chilli powder, 1/2 tspn turmeric, 1/2 tspn cumin seeds, 1/2 tspn coriander seeds, 1/2 tspn black peppercorns, 1/2 tspn sichuan peppercorns
- Chopped tomatoes: 1 cup
- 1-2 large potatoes: cut up a little smaller than the meatballs
- 1 pinch sugar
- Vegetable oil
- 2 cups water
- Chopped cilantro or green onions for garnish
- Mix the ground meat with the chopped onion, the first lot of ground spices, the dried methi (which you should crush) and salt and shape into meatballs (about 10-12 for 1 lb of meat). Don’t pack them too tightly.
- Heat up some oil and gently fry the meatballs, rolling them to brown lightly all over (more or less). You’re not trying to cook them through at this stage.
- While the meatballs are frying grind the large onion to a paste with the ginger and garlic. I microwave the onion for a minute first. This is a tip I got from a very good cook some years ago—onion pastes can sometimes otherwise get too bitter when fried.
- Once the meatballs are fried (shouldn’t take more than 4-5 minutes) set them aside and fish out any bits of onion etc. that may have fallen into the oil (or just wipe the pan clean).
- Heat up some more oil and add the whole spices (the cassia leaf, cloves, cardamom and cassia/cinnamon).
- Once the whole spices are fragrant dump in the onion-garlic-ginger paste and saute till the raw onion aroma is gone; stir carefully the entire time, being careful not to let the paste stick or burn.
- Then add the second lot of ground spices, mix and saute again for a couple of minutes, stirring all the while.
- Then add the tomatoes, sugar and salt. Saute till the tomatoes have cooked down and oil begins to separate.
- Add the potatoes and two cups of water. Mix, cover and cook on a simmer till the potatoes are partially done.
- Then add the meatballs. Stir/roll gently to cover/coat the meatballs with the liquid, cover and simmer till done. The sauce should be thickened considerably but still pourable.
Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with green onions or cilantro, and serve with rice or chapatis.
- This will be a bit of a theme in all my recipes but use the ingredients list above as a guide rather than as some fixed roadmap. Vary spices to your liking, but don’t over-spice the meatballs themselves—you want them to have character but not to fight the sauce; in fact, my mother rarely even seasons the meatballs (I only mention my mother because she’s actually a very good cook and the person I mostly learned from).
- Similarly vary the amount of tomato if you like—but if you go very far above 1 cup you may have to add a little more sugar to compensate for the sourness.
- I used two large potatoes here because I had two large potatoes that needed to be used up. Normally, I might use half as much. But do use potatoes: they’re here to extend the dish, yes, but also to thicken it.
- If you’re worried about the onion paste turning bitter or getting burned as you’re trying to saute it down, or if either happens to you, use thinly sliced onions instead. The sauce will have a different texture (it’ll be thinner) but it’ll still be good.
- You could also add some peas at the end for some added colour and interest.