We don’t make Indian food as often as we’d like, so for this installment of “Cooking with kid” I decided to address my goals of culinary diversity by tackling koftas (spiced meatballs). Although ground meat has already been featured in Burgers and Tacos, it’s a practical way to use less-than-ideal cuts, and we always enjoy the results. This meal ended up being the most stressful to prepare of the entire series to date, but the end result was nice. Perhaps I’ll tell the full story in a different post, but for now here’s the simple version.
This meal started a couple days prior with a trip to the freezer that yielded 1 lb 5 oz goat package marked for grinding. Having decided on an Indian theme, I reached for our A Little Taste of India cookbook, which has nice (if sometimes poorly written) recipes. I knew I wanted to make the lamb kofta recipe, substituting kid meat for lamb, along with a vegetable side dish or two. To get started, I ground & spiced the meat:
I trimmed fat and other icky bits from the meat, then cubed it and sent it through the grinder using the Kitchen Aid attachment. The grinding went smoothly this time, as I used the correct grinder blade (a lesson learned from my prior meat-grinding experience).
Koftas are especially tasty because of the many yummy flavors in them, and these need to be ground, as well. I decided to take a mortar-and-pestle approach, as we have a nice large one. There are dry spices (cumin, coriander, garam masala, and dried chilis) and wet ingredients (cilantro, onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeno). After mixing the ground meat and spices together, I set the bowl in the refrigerator for an hour or two to let the flavors mingle.
In the meantime, I considered side dishes, including a mint and coriander chutney that the kofta recipe specifically suggests as a good accompaniment. Our mint was prolific but the cilantro less so, so I used a 2:1 ratio of mint to cilantro leaves, plus ~1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 1 Lorz garlic clove, 2 Tbl yogurt, and a dash of our fermented hot sauce. This was a slight improvisation from the recipe, including omission of tamarind puree because I didn’t have any.
Rice would go well with the koftas, and the simple Punjabi cabbage recipe from the same cookbook would provide a vegetable side dish. Since we had milk on hand, I also started some spiced chai. After some time chilling in the fridge, the meat was ready to form into balls. As directed, I used a heaped tablespoon to form 15 balls from half the meat; the remainder I saved to cook the following day.Cooking the koftas was a bit of a challenge, as the recipe really didn’t provide the detail to do this job well. I thoroughly preheated a pan and added oil as directed. Working in batches, the directions say to:
Brown on all sides by gently shaking the pan for 2-3 minutes. Don’t be tempted to turn them over with a spoon or they may break up. Test a kofta by breaking it open. If it is cooked through, there should be no pink meat inside. If the meat is still pink, cook for another minute or two.
Upon putting the koftas into the pan, they immediately stuck a little. A good shake broke them free, but made me feel like I needed to shake constantly, which in retrospect I don’t think was the best choice. Overall, they did roll around nicely with a rotating, back-and-forth, pan motion. Eric’s instinct was that three minutes was not nearly enough to cook these through, and he was absolutely right. After three minutes, I broke one open to check it. A couple minutes later I opened another one to check. Some were already falling apart (without having been spoon prodded), and they were getting pretty brown outside, but the internal pinkness was slow to fade. I eventually decided they were done; one benefit to using our own farm-raised meat is less concern about food-safety in underdone meat.
The photo on the left shows the original meal; the mint chutney and chai show up in the photo at the beginning of the post. The koftas were quite delicious; Eric commented that the “mint sauce really complements them” and that it seemed to contribute to juiciness, as well. Unfortunately the cabbage was a bit bitter, I think because the tumeric that I used had been on the shelf a little too long and/or because the recipe called for more spices than necessary. All in all, tasty, but not perfect.
Day 2 was leftovers day. With the remaining uncooked meat, I decided I’d try the cooking technique again. This still didn’t go as I hoped, so I decided to throw the partially-cooked meatballs in a pot with the leftover rice and leftover cabbage, and a bit of water to prevent sticking. The results was even better than day 1, I thought. The initial bitterness in the cabbage side dish faded with all the flavors mingled, and it was easier to prepare and serve since everything was ready in one simple dish.
The contrast between Day 1’s stressful assembly of multiple separate dishes, and Day 2’s comfortable assembly of one combined dish, highlights a favorite style of cooking we call “hash”. The meat/rice/cabbage hash was just as good as its complicated predecessor, and fit well into our preference for meat as a condiment to vegetable.