Malai Koftas with Chaat Masala (Vegan, Baked)
I am pretty proud of myself for eating through my cupboards. I ate my last carrot and wondered whether I could hold out for a month until we moved to replenish them. Completely foolhardy. We’re moving within Toronto, so there’s no reason to be completely devoid of food. So I bought more carrots.
Then I spotted this recipe for mouth-watering malai kofta, Indian veggie meatballs in a creamy curry sauce, that seemed perfect for guests. I immediately decided they would be perfect for our Indian Easter – a company-worthy dish. Leanne’s recipe called for chaat masala which I didn’t have. Having disappointed myself by buying curry powder, I was adamant to make my own version. While there are many versions of chaat masala, my newest cookbook, 1000 Indian Recipes, had an intriguing recipe using amchur (mango powder), mint, black salt, cumin and asafoetida. It also included ajwain, citric acid and tamarind powder… of which I had none. Currently living so close to Little India, instead of shunning new purchases, I decided to use this as a time to harness my Indian spice prowess.
While looking for cheap hazelnuts, we scoured Little India for our new spices. Ajwain and citric acid were easily located but tamarind powder was nowhere to be found (I also checked out Bestwin and Sunny’s). Sadly, I also discovered what a treasure-trove BJ’s Supermarket is. While it has always been Rob’s go-to place for a variety of rotis, naans, parathas, etc as well as Indian spices, I also discovered it stocks Kombucha (from Crudessence!), has reasonably priced Mary’s crackers ($3.99/box) and a wide assortment of reasonably priced Stash teas ($2.99/each). Almond Breeze is also regularly priced at $1.69. Who would have known? Of course, I only discovered this a month prior to moving away.
Undeterred by my lack of tamarind powder, I made my chaat masala with it omitted. This was probably the first time I could honestly say my house smelled like curry. I blame the ajwain since it is the newbie!!
When deciding what to make for our guests, I liked Leanne’s strategy of making this partially in advance and then throwing the rest of the sauce together just prior to serving. We ended up making it all the same day, so that works too. This is more involved than the other curries I’ve made because you need to make the kofta, but this was very well received by everyone. The flavours were complex and delicious with big vegetable “meatballs”. Baked, not fried. The sauce was creamy without being heavy. While you could simply omit the chaat masala from the malai kofta, I liked the extra depth of flavours imparted likely from the black salt, ajwain and mint.
While still delicious and enjoyed by all, my meatballs were a bit more mushy than I had anticipated. I substituted sweet potatoes for regular potatoes but I don’t think that changed much. I am not sure if I underbaked them, or overcooked the veggies beforehand. My only exposure to koftas in restos have been heavy and dense fried balls, that I figure are filled with ground nuts and coconut. These are veggie-based and lighter. Rob assured me he’s had kofta like these before. I also used my food processor for the sauce, but since we used cashews as the creamy portion, next time I would use my Vitamix for a smoother consistency. I just didn’t want to dirty yet another container at that moment. Soaking the cashews could also help, so I added that into the directions.
2 cups diced sweet potatoes (no need to peel)
1 cup diced cauliflower
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup cooked green peas (I used canned peas)
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp fresh garlic, diced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, diced
1 1/2 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp chaat masala (see recipe below)
1 tbsp chickpea flour
2 tsp olive oil + 1 tbsp for rolling (divided)
Malai Curry Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup diced red onion
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp turmeric
1/2 cup diced fresh cherry tomatoes
4 tbsp cashews, soaked an hour if possible and drained
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tsp cumin seeds
4 tsp fresh ginger, diced
4 tsp fresh garlic, diced
4 tsp ground coriander
4 tsp ground cumin
4 tsp garam masala
4 tsp chaat masala (see recipe below)
1.5-2 cups water
4 tsp fresh cilantro, chopped roughly
For the kofta (can be prepared in advanced):
1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Partially cook the sweet potato in the microwave, on high for 5-7 minutes (or steam/boil them). Partially cook the cauliflower and carrots, as well. Microwave on high for 5 minutes (or steam/boil). Set aside to cool.
3. Add cooked sweet potatoes, cauliflower, carrots and the remainder of the kofta ingredients into a food processor and process until well mixed. Chunks of veggies are ok so long as the batter sticks together when squished.
4. Form 2-inch balls and place on a silpat-lined baking sheet. With a pastry brush, lightly coat each ball with a touch of oil.
5. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes, or until golden. Set aside to cool. These can be made in advance, stored in the refrigerator until needed.
For the malai curry sauce:
1. In a large frypan over medium-high heat, add olive oil. Once hot, add the onion, salt, fennel seeds and turmeric. Stir constantly for 2 minutes, until golden. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
2. Place the sauteed onion in a food processor or blender along with the tomatoes, cashews and water. process until smooth. Set aside.
3. Meanwhile, heat the same frypan over medium-high heat with teh coconut oil. Once hot, add the cumin seeds, ginger, and garlic, sauteeing for 1-2 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, garam masala, chaat masala, water, cilantro and the onion mixture from the blender. Stir well. Add the baked koftas and heat through, spooning the sauce overtop the koftas.
4. Serve hot, overtop rice, or with a side of naan.
1/3 Tbsp cumin seeds, dry-roasted and ground (I am inclined to think this was a typo – 1/3 tbsp = 1 tsp… but that’s what I used!)
1/4 cup mango powder (amchoor)
3 Tbsp dried mint leaves, ground
2 Tbsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp ground ajwain seeds
1 Tbsp salt, or to taste
1 Tbsp black salt
1 Tbsp citric acid
1 tsp Aleppo chile flakes, or to taste
1 tsp ground asafoetida
1. In a small skillet over medium heat, heat the cumin seeds until toasted and fragrant. Remove from heat and grind in a spice grinder.
2. Add the remainder of the spices to the skillet (amchoor, mint, ginger, ajwain, salt, black salt, citric acid, chile flakes, asafoetida) and toast over medium-low heat until fragrant, around 2 minutes. Remove from skillet and allow to cool.
3. Combine the cumin and spices and store in an air-tight jar.
Makes 1.5 cups.