Monday, July 19, 2010

Traditional Lamb Kofta Curry

This is a traditional recipe I learnt from my mom and one of my favourite dishes that I enjoyed as a child and still do. Now it is my daughter's favourite dish.
The Koftas are made with meat from the leg portion of the lamb - half of which is cooked with herbs & spices and then mixed with the other half which is uncooked. Then it is made into meat balls and fried and cooked again in an onion based curry sauce. Lamb can be substituted with beef or veal. But I always prefer the lamb koftas to all others for their flavour, taste and texture. Though the beef and veal koftas are good enough, the lamb ones still reign supreme.

Ingredients for the Koftas:
Leg of lamb- 1/2 a kg cut into medium sized cubes
Channa dal (chick pea dal peeled)- 1/2 a cup (standard cup)
Green chillies- 4 med size
Med sized onion- 1/2
Garlic cloves with the peel- 3 or 4
Turmeric powder- 1/4tspn
Cloves- 4
Green Cardamoms- 4
Cilantro: a few sprigs


1. Wash the channa dal 3 or 4 times till the water is clear. Drain well, keep aside.

2. Clean and wash 1/4kg of chunky lamb pieces and add to it the channa dal, onion, garlic, green chillies and turmeric powder in a small pot and cook on medium heat turning over the meat pieces with the dal mixture till the meat is no longer pink.

3. At this stage the dal is a little al dente which is the texture we need. Remove from stove and let it cool to room temperature.

4. Remove the meat pieces, cloves and cardamoms from the dal mixture and keep aside. First grind the dal mixture in a wet grinder or all purpose blender. You may add just a little water if necessary but it should be of chutney consistency and not watery.

5. Once the mixture is like a smooth paste, add the cooked meat pieces a few at a time by pulsing the grinder/blender. We just want to shred the meat pieces and not grind them fine. The meat fibre should be visible and not become a paste. The fibrous texture of the meat makes the koftas taste better.

6. Add fresh chopped coriander, salt, ground cloves & cardamoms and mix well with the dal mixture at low speed till it is of dough consistency. Keep aside.

7. Now finely grind the raw meat, add salt and mix it well with the ground kofta dough. Knead well, then make round koftas by rolling them in between your palms.

6. Heat oil in a dutch oven and when the oil is moderately hot, deep fry them lightly till they are golden brown. Prick them here and there gently with a fork and set aside. Makes 15 - 16 medium sized koftas.

Ingredients for the Curry:

Onions - 2 large
Ginger garlic paste - 1 tbs
Red chilly powder - 1tsp * use resham patti red chilly powder for extra flavour or kashmiri mirch. 
Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder- 1tsp
Tomatoes - 1 medium to large
Cloves - 4
Green cardamoms - 4
Cinnamon stick - 2 inches long
Yoghurt - 1/4 cup
Green chillies - 4 small size
Cilantro - as desired
Vegetable/Canola oil - 1/4 cup
 Coconut milk - 1/2 cup
Salt to taste


1. Finely slice the onions. Set the pot on medium heat. Add the cloves, cinnamon stick and cardamoms to the medium hot oil in the pot. When they begin to leave an aroma add the chopped onions and fry them till golden brown.

2.  Add the ginger garlic paste, coriander powder, turmeric and red chilly powder followed by chopped tomatoes, green chillies and lastly yoghurt when the tomatoes are a little bit softened.

3. Add 1/2 a cup water, stir well and when it starts bubbling add the fried koftas. Close the lid and cook on medium heat for at least 10 mins till the koftas are soft and juicy.

4. Care should be taken not to stir the curry with a spatula while cooking. Lift the pot with the kitchen mitts and gently give it a swirl on and off. If you shake it too hard the koftas might break.

5. Add coconut milk and simmer for 5 more minutes. The curry should thicken a little bit and the koftas should be soft and juicy.  Garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot with plain rice and enjoy.


1. Do not soak the chana dal. It should be added to the meat immediately after washing it.

2. The whole spices - cloves and cardamom do not grind well when they are thrown in together with the dal mixture. So they have to be ground  separately. I smash and pound them first using a mortar and pestle before grinding them with the dal mixture.

3. Make a little bouquet garni of the whole spices (cloves and cardamoms) with a cheese cloth and throw them in the pot with the dal and meat instead of spending time looking for them in the dal mixture. This will save up your time as well as give that flavour to the kofta mixture.

4. Pricking the koftas with a tooth pick before dropping them in the curry makes them juicy and soft.

5. Shredding the meat pieces by pulsing gives the koftas a better texture and taste.

6. Freshly ground coconut (1 tbs) can also be added instead of coconut milk. Simmering the kofta curry on low heat till the oil comes to the top makes the koftas juicy and flavourful.