Friday, March 25, 2011

Daily Dinner (4) : Palak aur Khubani ka Kofta

The last few days went by in a blur. If I didn't have all the leftovers from the past weekend's Holi get together, we'd have eaten out all week. Yesterday night, it was time to take stock of the groceries again. Basically all I could find was a half-bag of spinach, 3 potatoes, one sad tomato and an onion. I definitely did not want to eat Paalak-aloo yesterday. Actually I was just not in the mood for a run-of-the mill everyday dinner. So just decided to experiment a bit. I remembered reading about a spinach kofta some time ago. Although I did not have the details of that recipe, I felt like I  could do it.
So that's what my  main attraction for dinner last night turned out to be. I did have a little bit of rice and mung daal left over, all which I reheated together with a tempering of cumin to go the side as daal pulao!

Paalak  aur Khubani ka Kofta
(Spinach-Apricot Kofta in a tomato onion gravy)

For Koftas
Paalak/ Spinach   1/2 a bag (about 8oz)
Potato  1 medium
Crushed paneer 1/4 cup
Besan/ Gram flour  7Tbsp
Salt  1tsp
Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp
Dried apricot/ khubani 2-3 chopped
Oil to deep fry

For Gravy
Onion 1 medium
Tomato 1 medium
Green chillies 2
Ginger 1 inch piece peeled
Tomato puree 2 Tbsp
Salt 1/2Tbsp
Turmeric a pinch
Dhania/Coriander powder 1/2 Tbsp
Saunf/ Fennel seed powder 1/2 tsp
Coconut - groundnut powder * 1Tbsp (optional)
Oil 1Tbsp
Cumin seeds/ Jeera 1/2tsp
Water 1 cup

  1. Cut the dried apricot into quarters, soak them in some water till needed.
  2. Wash and chop the spinach. Then blanch it in hot water till wilted. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can and transfer to a mixing bowl (I actually ran the spinach through my chopper to get it into a very fine paste like consistency). Reserve the liquid for gravy.
  3. Parboil the potato- then grate it onto the spinach paste. I pressure cooked the potato whole and the just grated with with a large grater. If not, then mash a boiled potato.
  4. Add the paneer and spices.
  5. Start adding the besan 1 Tbsp at a time just enough to get the mixture all together to form balls (Koftas) with it. This will be a sticky, messy affair but don't add too much besan or your koftas will be extremely dense and 'floury'.
  6. Dry your apricot pieces onto a paper towel. Pre- heat the oil for frying.
  7. Wet your hands with a little water. Take about 1 and 1/2 Tbsp of the spinach-potato mixture on your palm, flatten it, put a piece of apricot in the center, and then bring it all together to form a ball. Drop it directly into hot oil.
  8. Repeat till you make all the koftas. It actually takes less time than it sounds like. I got about 10 koftas with this quantity (of which two went into the girls' mouths before I could make the gravy!!), and could fry them all in two batches.
  9. Now start the gravy. Grind the onion, tomato, green chillies and ginger together into a coarse  gravy mix.
  10. In a wide pan or kadai, heat 1Tbsp oil, and temper the cumin seeds. Then add your gravy mix,  tomato puree and all the spices. Roast on high till the mix leaves oil on the sides and starts to stick (about 15-20 min.)
  11. Add the reserve liquid from spinach and 1 more cup of water. Bring to a boil.
  12. To serve, put a kofta in the center, and ladle a generous amount of hot gravy on top. 
* Toast 1Tbsp each unsweetened coconut flakes and groundnuts in the microwave for 30 sec. Turn them and toast for another 30 sec. Then run it through the coffee grinder to get a fine powder.

My two cents:
Kofta is by and large a meat-based, middle eastern-influenced food even in India; most probably a inheritence from the Mughlai and Hyderabadi Nawabi cuisines. The most well-known vegetarian version is the malai kofta.  I've not seen many variations of the vegetarian versions, which is why the spinah kofta had caught my eye. This was my first time making it, and I am very pleased with the results. I served it with roti, but this will go extremely well with rice or naan. This recipe goes to the A.W.E.D. event , hosted by Ayeesha , and started by DK of Chef inYou. . Also linked to Dish name starts with a P at Akila's

The gravy will reheat very well on stove top. I am not so sure about the koftas. If extra, I'd save them separate, heat the koftas in an oven and then pour the reheated gravy over it.

You can also replace some water with about 1/4 cup of heavy cream for a richer version- I just chose not to do it.

I happened to have apricots on hand from my last trip to Abu Dhabi. They add a nice, mildly sweet flavor as you bite into the kofta. A good substitute I can think of is raisins. Although they should be just as good with nothing in the middle.