Kofta and Tahini Cream

One of my favorite meals in Middle Eastern cuisine is kofta, that is, spiced meatballs. But achieving the right balance of herbs and spices, the right consistency and flavor making these at home has thus far eluded me. Today I give it another go!

My first attempts failed because I tried to go TOO low carb and reduce the breadcrumbs way too much. That was before I understood the true importance of a well-hydrated breadcrumb to making good meatballs. Since then, I’ve struggled with the spice mix. I like kofta that are cinnamon-forward in flavor, so I always make sure to include a larger portion of cinnamon. The problem is that I have such a vast spice cabinet that it is tempting to add so many more spices in this category… cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, mace, coriander seed, etc. etc. I think I have to hold back and simplify my kofta so that the flavors I like best are the ones most prominently featured.

Spiced Kofta and Tahini Cream

Spiced Kofta and Tahini Cream


1/3 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1 lb ground meat
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄2 teaspoon allspice
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
1 spring onion, chopped or snipped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or fresh parsley or fresh mint, or all three

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg into the breadcrumbs with a fork. Let stand at least ten minutes to allow the egg to hydrate your breadcrumbs. Add the meat, garlic, spices, salt, pepper, onions and herbs. Let stand at least another ten minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Form the meat mixture into meatballs, patties, or log-shapes. Place in a shallow baking dish. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Serve with tahini cream (below) and/or hummus.

One of my favorite dressings for kofta is tahini cream:


4 tablespoons sesame tahini
4 tablespoons sour cream or yogurt
4 tablespoons cream or half & half

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, or with an immersion blender. Chill. Serve as a dressing for kofta meatballs, above.

Sweet Potato Kofta with Mango Raita

Sometimes I set out in search of one particular type of recipe, but sometimes a recipe finds me instead. While on the hunt for something else, I stumbled upon this recipe and said, “Well, heck, I’ve got to book mark this one.” It very quickly thereafter made it onto my shopping list for a lazy Sunday of recipe experimentation:


1 (40 oz) can medium sweet potatoes, rinsed thoroughly
1/2 cup dry red lentils, cooked
1/4 cup minced dates
1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons cilantro chutney
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch, optional
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
extra water, or an egg

MANGO RAITA (all ingredients to taste)

mango chutney
lime juice and/or zest
plain yogurt or sour cream
black mustard seeds

Unless I need sweet potatoes (which are functionally the same thing as yams) to retain their shape (e.g. as fries or in cubes), I use canned because they are so cheap, easily available, and pretty much ready to use right out of the can. Problem is, they are often stored in syrup. Just make sure you rinse the potatoes very thoroughly to get all the extra sugar off.

Preheat oven to 400. Prepare all ingredients as indicated in the recipe list and then combine in a large bowl. I used electric egg beaters and they worked well for pulverizing the potatoes without pureeing the other ingredients. Add a little water, or an egg, if ingredients seem too dry. Form into roughly golf-ball sized kofta and arrange on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake until golden brown (check after about 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, prepare the mango raita by combining all the ingredients in desired proportions. If you’ve never made raita or don’t know what it is, the yogurt or sour cream is the primary ingredient of this condiment, the fruit or vegetable (in this case, mango chutney is used for ease of preparation), should be a secondary amount, and then more lightly on the seasonings to taste. I like a little runnier raita so that it’s good as a dip, but don’t add so much lime juice it gets too liquid-y.

One additional innovation I made with this recipe… the weekend after I made them, I decided to try some modifications to my pakora recipe, and ended up with a lot of pakora batter, so I battered and fried the leftover koftas. Definitely tasty either way.

Curry Sauce Victory, plus Spinach Kofta

A few weeks ago I took my first foray into Kofta (i.e. Meatball) Curry. The meatballs I made turned out quite pleasing, but the curry sauce recipe I made to accompany them was disappointing. Somehow a recipe that looked to contain all manner of interesting flavors ended up underwhelming and bland.

I resolved to have another go at Kofta Curry, in particular the curry sauce. I contemplated what might have gone wrong in the sauce recipe I used last time, and how it might be fixed. I considered what makes other, similar tomato-based curries (such Tikka Masala or Makhani) that I know and love so tasty. I resolved to pool several curry recipes, including my Tikka Masala and Makhani recipes and a number of Kofta Curry recipes I found online, comparing and contrasting them, taking the common ingredients, adopting uncommon ingredients with special promise, and getting rid of ingredients or methods that appeared troublesome… all with the hope that the resulting recipe would embody all of the glorious flavor one could ever hope for in a Kofta Curry!

Well, at least I wanted it to be tastier than the recipe I tried two weeks ago. And in that goal, at least, I succeeded. While I don’t claim it is the pinnacle of all curry on Earth, it turns out to be a pretty darned good tomato curry with its own character, similar in some ways, but also distinct from the other types of curry recipes I consulted.


Kofta Curry Sauce1 oz butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic (1 teaspoon minced)
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground red pepper or paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 can diced tomatoes
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
water, as needed
1/2 to 1 cup cream or beaten yogurt

Saute the onion and garlic in the butter. Add spices and other ingredients as they simmer. After adding the tomatoes, a little water may be needed if the sauce is too thick. Depending on how long you simmer the sauce (i.e. if you’re going to use it to stew meat, or just keep it warm on the stove while cooking other things), you may need to add a little water as it cooks to keep it at that desired gravy-like consistency.

I’m a fan of smooth sauces, so I used my immersion blender to process this sauce; however if you prefer a chunkier sauce there is really no need to process it, as there are no whole spices in this recipe. Add the cream shortly before serving, and heat through. Serve with kofta meatballs or vegetable balls. Garnish with cashews and fresh cilantro.

The only adjustment I made to this recipe after trying it was that I added an option for less lemon juice. I used the full 2 tablespoons when I made this recipe; when I ate the sauce a second time as leftovers, I noticed it was just a tad acidic after sitting a day in the fridge. Probably adding additional cream would help to tame this acidity, but I may use only one tablespoon of lemon juice in the future.

One day soon, I hope to try this sauce with my previous Kofta Meatball recipe, but in the interest of keeping my repertoire varied, but this past weekend I decided to try a recipe for Spinach Kofta.

I spoke in my afore-referenced blog about different varieties of kofta. Among the Malai (i.e. vegetable) koftas, there seems to be quite a lot of variation from one recipe to another in terms of what vegetables are used. Sometimes the variance is minor, sometimes two recipes will use different vegetables altogether.

I decided to start with a recipe for spinach kofta, as it looked easy enough to make with things I already had around the house. As the recipe called for mashed potatoes, rather than chopped potatoes, I knew I could use my favorite potato substitute, canned yams.


1 (29oz) or 2 (16oz) can(s) of yams, thoroughly rinsed and drained
1/2 lb. frozen spinach (i.e. half a 1 lb. bag), thawed
2 green chilis, diced
2 tablespoons cottage cheese (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon paprika or cayenne
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 egg
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
corn flour or besan (chickpea) flour

Mash the yams in a bowl with the spinach. Mix in the remaining ingredients up to and including the breadcrumbs. Form golf-sized balls (add more breadcrumbs if the mixture is too moist). Roll the balls in corn flour.

Heat oil in a small skillet or deep fryer. Fry the kofta balls, drain on a towel, serve with my Definitive Kofta Curry Sauce.

A few notes on this recipe. I indicate that the cottage cheese is optional, not because I think that one would want to omit it for any particular reason, but rather because I accidentally left it out when making my kofta balls this weekend (in fact, now I’m stuck with an enormous tub of cottage cheese and nothing to do with it). They were tasty enough without it, but cheese can only make them better, right?

Finally, a note on frying. When a cooking method akin to deep frying is called for, as in this recipe, I use a modified shallow fry. Deep frying can be such a waste of oil that I try to avoid it. For these koftas, I used my smallest skillet filled with about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of oil (i.e. about half the diameter of the kofta balls). I let the koftas fry a half at a time, rolling them around until they got done on all sides.

Kofta Curry

I’ve been in something of a recipe rut over this past winter. I couldn’t exactly say why, only that I’ve been uninspired to try new recipes, or even to root through my tried-and-true recipes to resurrect old favorites in the interest of keeping variety in my repertoire. But after a not-so-long, not-so-cold winter of culinary ennui, I have been struck by the urge to cook adventurously again.

And so, I plan to sift through old favorites to post on this blog, as well as to post new recipes as I slake my desire for uncharted culinary horizons. Overblown enough for you? I have a rough goal of trying/posting a new recipes every weekend, or so… though, life happens, so I’m not writing it in stone… only, I suppose, in HTML.

Bumping around recently on Food.com, I found myself–following a confluence of otherwise unrelated link click-age–intrigued by the concept of a Kofta, or Meatball, curry. Now, “kofta” needn’t mean a meat dish by necessity. I once much enjoyed a Malai Kofta at a Taste of India buffet, and in looking up recipes for such confirmed my memory that it was in fact a non-meat “meatball.” Being unfamiliar with most languages outside Eastern Europe, I could not begin to speculate on the finer nuances of the word “kofta,” but I gather it has a somewhat broader meaning than “meatball” does in American English.

Still and all, it would appear that an otherwise un-linguistically-modified “Kofta Curry” would imply meatballs in curry sauce. I hope to explore non-meat koftas at a later time, but in the meantime meatballs seem like an awesome nucleus for curry.

Why do meatballs seem so awesome? Well, I’m always looking for new, cheap and low-carb item to be the crux of curries. I find it often expensive and a bother to keep larger pieces of meat, i.e. chicken breasts, beef steaks, pork loins, etc., stocked regularly at my abode, but vegetables are easy, as are legumes of the ilk of garbanzo beans, and canned fish like salmon or tuna. While I don’t regularly keep ground meat at my apartment, I can’t deny the appeal of a meatball, as the meat is cheap to purchase and interesting things are bound to come of it (since ground meat alone is pretty boring).

On the other hand, I’ve never been especially intrigued by the family of “keema” or loose ground meat curries. But there’s just something about a meatball. Meatballs are one of the few Italian foods I gravitate toward, and so a curry-deserving version of the meatball concept was undeniably appealing.

Without belaboring the point further, I give you my first attempt at kofta curry, starting, of course, with the kofta.


1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teapsoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons diced onion
1 green chili, diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
1 egg
1/8 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 lb. ground meat, i.e. beef, turkey, etc.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, except meat, until well combined. Add meat and process to desired fineness. It appears that kofta recipes tend to favor the more finely ground meats, so don’t be shy about pulverizing it.

Form the meat into roughly golf-sized balls and place in a lightly oiled ceramic or glass pan to bake for about 45 to 1 hour at 300. I would recommend baking until the outside of the meatball is browned and a little crispy.

Having baked the kofta, we need a curry sauce to complement it. I perused a number of kofta curry sauces and formulated a rough consensus of common and appealing ingredients:


vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red pepper or paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoons ground almonds
1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes in liquid
2 curry leaves or bay leaves
2 tablespoons cream or yogurt
cilantro leaves

Combine everything up to and including the tomatoes in a saucepan or a food processor. If you have an immersion blender, you can saute the ingredients awhile in a saucepan, until the almonds soften, and then pureed them with the blender. Otherwise, combine the ingredients in a food processor first, and then heat in a saucepan. Once pureed, by either method, the curry or bay leaves can be added. Stew awhile longer and then add the cream shortly prior to serving. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

When all was said and done, I was pleased with my kofta, but unenthusiastic about the sauce. I found myself wishing for a sauce that tasted more like a tikka masala or “butter chicken” type sauce. As it was, it seemed to me like the tomatoes and the almonds sort of cancelled each other out, flavor-wise. I went back and reviewed further recipes for kofta curries, and the use both tomatoes and nuts seems pretty standard. Perhaps in the future, I will try using the nuts as a garnish, rather than mixing them in, korma-style, in effort to preserve the tangy-ness of the tomatoes. Then again, maybe I’ll just make tikka masala sauce, instead.