Malai Kofta Curry | Panner-Vegetable Dumplings in Creamy Indian Sauce

malai_kofta_curry

For the longest time, I remember not wanting to eat malai koftas because I had this thing for malai – which to me was the shriveled layer of milk skim that I could never ever consume – it just makes me gag. Mom says I’m paranoid. But it happens every time, and even a tiny bit cannot escape to my gut without my knowing about it. Well, I understand a lot of people actually relish it. But somehow it wasn’t for me. Now since the only memory of malai I had was this thing that I couldn’t stand, eating a whole ball of malai (yeah that’s what I thought those koftas were made of – why else would it be called ‘malai kofta’??!) was beyond me.

Okay, that is all obviously history now. I still cannot consume milk skim, but I now know that’s not what these yummy koftas are made of. I also know that malai comes in a much more welcoming form as heavy (whipping) cream – I cannot thank our ex-Punjabi nanny enough for that and also for introducing me to home cooked malai kofta curry!

If you have ever come close enough to making this dish but thought it might be too much of a hassle, or if you were brave enough to try it but it just did not hold up well (you know what I am talking about if you’ve been there), please read on. I’ve been making this dish on and off for about 15 long months now, but I waited this long before posting it. Cause there was one flaw I could not overcome. Until now. Every time, there was the problem with the koftas crumbling and disintegrating in the oil when frying and even though I could salvage some at the end ‘some how’, surely I wasn’t going to put you all through that ordeal. So I was waiting to find a fool proof way to make koftas and I am glad I can share it with you all now (phew!!). A few days ago, I stumbled upon a version of malai kofta on the internet where the dumplings are given a ‘flour wash’, instead of actually adding any flour to the dumplings. Long story short – that was the only thing I needed to change in my nanny’s version of the recipe and everything else worked like a charm.

So finally, here’s the secret to making restaurant-style malai kofta curry at home. Somehow, getting this right after all this time makes me really happy and there’s my good omen for things to come in 2013!! Oh, and did I mention this dish has taken the shortest-route to the #1 spot on D’s list? 😀

On that note, here’s wishing you all a fabulous New Year and a great appetite all year long!

malai_kofta_crumbled_paneer

Malai Kofta Curry | Panner-Vegetable Dumplings in Creamy Indian Sauce

Serves: 4 (please make more, or you’ll regret later just as I did) | Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

For the koftas:

  1. 1.5 cups (approx. 6 oz) paneer (Indian cottage cheese), shredded
  2. 1 cup potatoes, boiled and mashed or shredded
  3. 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
  4. 1/2 tsp red chili powder or to taste
  5. 1/4 tsp garam masala powder
  6. salt to taste
  7. oil for frying (standing just over 1.5-2 in in a frying pan)

For the flour-wash:

  1. 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  2. 4 tbsp water

For the sauce:

  1. 4 tbsp oil or ghee
  2. 2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  3. 1 tbsp broken cashew nuts (optional)
  4. 2 onions, pureed
  5. 3 tomatoes, pureed
  6. 1 tbsp ginger & garlic paste
  7. 1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
  8. 3/4 tsp red chili powder or to taste
  9. 2 tsp ground coriander (dhaniya powder)
  10. 1/2 tsp garam masala (ground spice powder)
  11. salt to taste
  12. few stalks cilantro / coriander leaves, chopped for garnishing
  13. 1.5 cups heavy whipping cream (unsweetened)
  14. 1 cup water, or as needed to bring sauce to desired consistency

Method:

Step 1: Make the flour wash

  1. Add water to the flour and whisk together to form a smooth and thin batter without any lumps.

Step 2: Make the koftas

malaikofta_making_koftas_step_by_step

  1. Combine all ingredients listed under the ‘For the koftas’ section and mix well to form a tight dough. Do not add any water.
  2. Make lemon-sized balls (you can make 12-14 koftas if using the measures in this recipe). The balls should be well formed and tight, as cracks promote crumbling/ breaking apart when frying.
  3. Heat oil in a pan and when it has reached a good hot temperature (~350+ degrees F), reduce to med-high.
  4. Place the koftas in the flour wash and turn all over to fully coat the dumpling in the flour wash.
  5. Slowly drop the kofta into the hot oil.
  6. Fry on med-heat, stirring occasionally to turn koftas over, until they are medium brown all over and then drain the oil and remove onto a plate lined with a kitchen towel to absorb excess oil.
  7. Repeat with remaining koftas (you can dip 2 or 3 dumplings in the flour wash at a time depending on the size of the container used to hold the flour wash).
  8. Do not overcrowd the frying pan as too much touching leads to breaking.

Step 3: Make the sauce and add koftas

malaikofta_making_the_sauce_step_by_step

  1.  Heat oil in a heavy bottom-pan.
  2. Add cumin seeds and cashew nuts and saute for a few seconds until slightly golden brown.
  3. Add pureed onions along with some salt and cook on med-high, stirring frequently, until onions are fully cooked and dry of moisture and mixture turns golden brown.
  4. Add ginger garlic paste and turmeric powder and saute for a minute.
  5. Add pureed tomatoes and cook with lid on for about 5 minutes until tomatoes are somewhat cooked.
  6. Add dry spices (red chili powder, ground coriander and garam masala) with 1/2 cup water and combine.
  7. Continue to cook on med-high, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts oozing oil and everything comes together without sticking to the pan.
  8. Reduce the heat, add the heavy cream along with some water (1/2 cup or so to bring to desired consistency), combine and bring to a simmer.
  9. Check the taste and add more salt/chili powder/garam masala if desired at this stage.
  10. Add the koftas to the sauce and gently combine.
  11. Cook with lid on in med-heat to simmer the sauce with the koftas for about 4-5 minutes.
  12. Sprinkle chopped cilantro and turn off the heat.

Do not break a sweat about the side – roti/ naan/ pulao / steamed rice, it could be anything. It really won’t matter cause the malai koftas are going to steal the show in the end 🙂

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