I ended up making this curry because I woke myself up the other night shouting “MEATBALLS!” I am just as fixated on food during slumber, it seems. As a child, I’d often wake up clawing at the air above my head, trying to grab whatever cake/sandwich/biscuit/ice cream treat had been accompanying me in my sleep. That’s a cruel moment when you wake up and realise Dream Dessert only existed in your greedy imagination, I can tell you.
Anyway, this is a very nice little lamb meatball, or kofta curry. I based the spicing on a Madhur Jaffrey Curry Bible recipe but added more meatballs, swapped in some fresh green chillies, omitted a few things I couldn’t care less for and garnished with crispy onions. To make the meatballs really light, I took the apparently inauthentic approach of adding bread soaked in water; this is a trick I use with all meatballs you see, because it makes them LIGHTER THAN AIR, put simply. You can happily shovel away a dozen without feeling like you’ve eaten a bag of protein pebbles for your dinner.
If you make this, do try to get hold of the fat, wrinkled, black cardamom pods; they add an unmatchable smoky undertone to the curry. We ate this wrapped in parathas with a Gujarati carrot salad, raita and a fresh mango chutney.
Lamb Kofta Curry
450g minced lamb
3 small slices crappy, ready-sliced white bread, crusts removed
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green chilli, finely chopped
A small handful coriander leaves, chopped
For the sauce
1 onion, finely chopped
A thumb of ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 green chillies, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon tomato puree
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 pint veg stock
1 cinammon stick
2 black cardamom pods
2 green cardamom pods
5 black peppercorns
Put the slices of bread into a small bowl and cover with a couple of tablespoons of water until soaked through. Squeeze out the moisture using your hands until you have a little wet ball of bread. In a large bowl, mix all the meatball ingredients together (including the bread), using your hands. Season with salt and pepper.
Wet your hands and fashion your meatballs; the size is up to you but I like mine fairly small and I got 38 from this mixture. Refrigerate the meatballs for an hour, or as long as you can. The longer they rest, the better they will taste.
Put the garlic, chillies, ginger and 3 tablespoons water in a blender and blend to a paste.
Heat a couple of tablespoons groundnut or other frying oil in a heavy-based pan. When hot, put in the onions. Fry them for about 5 minutes until they are starting to colour. Add the paste from the blender and fry briefly. Add the tomatoes and fry until they are starting to break down a bit and thicken the mixture. Add the tomato purée and cook out briefly. Add the coriander, turmeric and salt. Stir for 30 seconds then add the stock and bring to the boil.
Add the whole spices to the sauce, reduce the heat and gently add the meatballs. Cover and let simmer very gently for 40 minutes, turning the meatballs around every now and then.
Garnish with crispy onions (if you wish) and fresh coriander (essential).