Malai Kofta has been requested by a few people, my wife included. It’s a decadent vegetarian dish that has that combination of deep frying and cream that makes it a hit amongst personal trainers trying to get more clients. There are two distinct parts to the dish – the kofta (fried vegetarian patties/balls) and the malai (cream sauce). There are quite a few steps, but really doesn’t take too long to prepare and it’s quite fun. I’m going to describe each process separately, even though I cooked both the koftas and malai simultaneously. Enjoy!
750gms Assorted starchy vegetables – it doesn’t really matter what you use as long as at least 50% of your veg are potatoes. Anything that absorbs too much water (e.g. courgettes, tomatoes etc) won’t work too well – I’ve gone with 2 medium potatoes, 1 carrot, 1/4 cauliflower.
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsp cashew nuts (almonds also work well)
Salt & Pepper to season
1 medium egg
Plain flour to coat koftas
Oil for frying (pref vegetable or sunflower oil)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped – you can also use 1/2 can of chopped tomatoes, but this will give you stronger flavour
1 medium onion, minced
1 Cayenne chilli (optional)
100 ml cream
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cm ginger, minced
2 green cardamoms (remove the shells – we only want to keep the black seeds inside)
2 cm cinnamon sticks
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder (or smoked paprika for a milder flavour)
2 tsp garam masala
4 tbsp butter (or vegetable oil)
Chop your veg into 1 cm cubes put in a microwave proof bowl and add 1/4 cup of water. Cover and microwave until the veg is soft (took me about 8 mins on high). Don’t add too much water, otherwise it’ll get sodden.; however, too little and you will burn the veg. Stir the veg half way through and add more water, if needed.
While the veg is cooking, crush most of your cashews (retain some for garnish at the end). Add in a little salt and pepper to the cashews. You don’t want it pulverised, but into a chopped nuts size, like you can get on ice-cream. This gives your kofta a nice texture. You can also add in raisins to your koftas to give them a really Persian feel. If you like a little more flavour, add in a teaspoon of ground coriander, too.
Check your veg is cooked and mash thoroughly. You can seek I’ve kept the skins on the veg – I love the skins – they add texture and are great for you – plenty of fibre for the system! Feel free to peel your veg in advance, if you don’t like them as much – it’ll give you a silkier texture, if you do.
Throw in your cashews and your breadcrumbs and combine. I’ve used multi-grain bread to make breadcrumbs, so there are a few seeds in the mix, too – that’s fine! Do whatever you like to add some punch into the mixture. BUT, don’t be tempted to whip your mixture – too much whipping and the starch in the potatoes will turn it in to a thick glue like substance – you don’t want that.
Your mixture needs to be dry, but still sticky enough to hold on to a teaspoon when inverted. If it’s not dry enough, add a little more breadcrumbs.
It’s time to make the koftas. In preparation, beat your egg and put into one dish – pour out enough flour to coat your koftas (about 1/2 cup) into a plate. Now, with wet (or oiled) hands, mould a palm sized amount of the mixture into small rounds.
Dip into the beaten egg (I should have used a shallower dish – this was very fiddly in the ramekin).
Place the koftas covered in egg on to the flour and mould into your chosen shape. I’ve gone with patties because they’re easier to cook. Traditionally, you’d have tear drop shapes, but as long as it holds together, it really doesn’t matter.
Voila, koftas – keep your hands damp to make shaping them easier.
Time for cooking – I don’t own a deep fryer, so I’ve shallow fried the koftas in a bit of hot oil. I’m not going to pretend this is healthier than deep frying, as I’m still cooking in a fair bit of oil, but it’s definitely better use of oil if you don’t deep fry often. I place my koftas in an order in the pan – that way, I know exactly which ones went in first and need to be turned first.
When they start to brown, flip over GENTLY. We’re dealing with delicate items here and lots of hot oil – please be careful!
Once cooked on both sides, carefully remove and place on kitchen towels to absorb excess fat. Congratulations, you’ve made kofta – these are good enough to eat on their own. A little raita or chilli pickle and you’ve got a great starter! But, to finish off the dish, we need the malai:
Melt your butter (or warm your oil, or use a combination of the two) over a medium heat and add your cloves, cardamom seeds and cinnamon sticks. Fry for 30 secs to a minute to infuse your butter/oil.
Put your minced onions, ginger, garlic, turmeric and chilli powder into the butter and fry gently until the onions go soft and translucent.
Add in your chopped tomatoes and, if you want, a chopped chilli (with the seeds & pith removed).
Add in 1 cup of water (I’m unsure if the cat is happy or a touch stoned). If you prefer a stronger tomato flavour, you can add some tomato paste to the mixture. Bring the mix to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 mins until the water has reduced in half.
Remove the cinnamon from your mixture and discard – cinnamon doesn’t tend to blend very well, so best to keep them out of this dish. Also, hence why we threw away the cardamom shells earlier – almost impossible to blitz these.
Blend your mixture to a thick gravy – I had reduced mine too much, so I had to add a little water to thin it out a little. If you have a stick blender, it’s much easier to use this directly in to the pan.
Return your blended mix to the pan over a low heat and add in your cream. Combine into a beautiful, silky gravy.
Season at this point with salt. Taste to see how strong your gravy is. If it’s very mild, then add in 2 tsp of garam masala. If it’s already a bit strong for you, then only put in 1 tsp and stir through.
Gently place your kofta into the malai and warm through – all elements are cooked, so you’re just bringing this up to temperature. If you have bubbling lava then the kofta will fall apart and your cream gravy will split. Not too attractive!
Serve with some basmati and top with the retained cashews and anything else that looks pretty you have lying around. Consume!