Monday, May 6, 2013

Lauki kofta curry - a delicious side dish and some idle talk

We went to a restaurant in town recently as some of our friends recommended the food. It had a refreshingly different ambience than the usual Indian restaurants you find. The decor was very minimal and the seating looked comfy though not anything fancy. It was a Saturday afternoon, a little past usual lunch time and there were 2 other groups having lunch. We stepped in thinking it would be a buffet as in most Indian restaurants especially on a weekday. When we didn't see any buffet laid out, we hesitated a little bit at the front desk. A young lady told us that we could choose dishes from the menu and pay for it upfront and get an order #. They would call us when it was ready. Sounded a little different from other places. We did place an order as we had a famished teenager with us coming from her dance lessons, got into one of the booths and sat there waiting. The tables were literally bare, no water glasses, cutlery, napkins nothing. BH noticed a water dispenser in the corner and got 3 disposable glasses filled with water.

Our order # was called and when we went to pick them up, we realized that everything was served in disposable containers and the side dish came in different sized boxes, with a lid, ready to take home if you didn't finish it. For a minute, I actually started to appreciate how efficient all this disposable world looked, think about it - there is no cleaning required of the plates, water usage is reduced and as a business owner you save on employing another person and buying machines to do the job. But then every coin has two sides, right? However recyclable the disposable containers are, we all know that trees don't grow at the same rate we cut them down :-(. So I am still debating whether using those recyclable dishes and conserving water made up for the fact that there was still a huge eco-unfriendly act to start with because of all those disposable containers(some were bio degradable but the curry boxes had plastic lids).

In all fairness, restaurants are businesses and they have different philosophies to cater to their clientele and this place didn't invite me for my opinion at any rate :-). This is not a criticism of that particular place, obviously this is not the only place that uses disposable plates and cups, it is just me pondering over something that bothers me. We went and had some really yummy Baskin Robbins' ice cream sundaes next door after lunch where the edible waffle cones were served inside a disposable cup :-).  I know it is not practical to grow banana plants in the backyard and serve food on top of them, although it would be really lovely and unique if someone did that :-).

While reuse, recycle are seemingly becoming the new trend words, when I look back at my childhood,  it was a way of life and there were no second thoughts, wastage was unacceptable and less was more. How much are we adding to the land fill with this 'disposable' way of life? What do you think?

So here is something you will not typically find in a restaurant but can make at home and eat it from your own reusable silverware :-). I don't normally deep fry my koftas in kofta curries since I discovered the multi faceted uses of my aebleskiever pan, also I almost never use cream in my kofta curries but instead add a thick paste of some healthy nuts and give a shot of either yogurt or milk. I would suggest planning on making extra koftas as these are delicious by themselves and I tend to eat them as they come off cooked like pakoras. Try this creamy, delicious kofta curry made from bottle gourd a.k.a lauki with rice or roti.
What do you need to make Lauki kofta curry? 
Kofta ingredients
Makes 20 golf ball sized koftas
3 cups grated lauki/bottlegourd
1 Tblsp crushed peanuts - optional, highly recommended
1 Tblsp finely chopped onions
1 Tblsp chopped cilantro
2 green chilies minced
2 Tblsp besan
1/2 Tsp Red chili powder (adjust to taste)
1/2 Tsp garam masala
1/2 Tsp Amchoor powder (optional)
3/4 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
2 Tsp oil to cook the koftas
Gravy ingredients
2 medium onions minced (3/4 cup)
3 ripe tomatoes pureed (~ 3 cups)
8-10 almonds soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
1 inch piece of ginger
2 cloves garlic
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds
1 big or 2 small bay leaves
1 Tsp Garam masala
1 Tsp Red chili powder (adjust to taste)
1/2 Tsp Amchoor
1 Tblsp chopped cilantro
1 cup yogurt/cream/milk
1/8 Tsp turmeric powder
3/4 Tsp kasoori methi
1 Tblsp oil

How do you make Lauki kofta curry? 
Kofta making
  • Wash and peel the bottle gourd. Cut into quarters to expose seeds. 
  • If the seeds are hard, cut them out and discard. 
  • Grate the bottle gourd pieces, add salt to grated lauki, keep aside for 15 minutes.
  • Squeeze the soaked lauki, remove all excess water and take the gratings into a bowl. Reserve the water for use in the gravy. 
  • Add all the remaining ingredients under Kofta except for besan and mix it in. 
  • Add besan slowly to bind the ingredients and form them into golf ball size koftas. 
  • You can deep fry these balls until golden brown in oil or bake them by spreading them in a single layer on a baking sheet (350F for 40-50 minutes and then broil for 2-3 minutes to get a crisper crust) or fry them in aebleskiever pan or paddu pans. 
  • 2 Tsp of oil listed is enough to bake or pan fry the koftas but you will need more oil if you plan to deep fry them.
  • I usually use my paddu pans, place the balls in the grooves, drizzle oil on top, cover and cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until the bottom turns golden brown, turn them over gently and cook the other side. You may need to turn the koftas a couple of times to ensure it gets a nice golden crust all over. 
  • Keep the cooked koftas in a plate lined with a paper towel until ready to use. 
Gravy making
  • Wash, peel and crush ginger into a paste. 
  • Make a paste of garlic.
  • Chop onion very fine or mince them in a food processor. 
  • Puree tomatoes and keep it ready. 
  • Soak almonds for 30-45 minutes in warm water (or couple of hours in cool water), peel the skin off and grind it into a very smooth paste. 
  • Heat oil in a pan, add cumin and bay leaves. Let cumin sizzle.
  • Add minced onion and let cook for 5-7 mins with frequent stirring until the raw smell is gone.
  • Add crushed ginger and garlic and fry for a minute. 
  • Add tomato puree and cook until the raw smell is gone, color of the sauce darken and the sauce becomes thicker. 
  • Add the almond paste, continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes on low heat.
  • Add the dry spice powders, salt and turmeric, mix it in. 
  • Add the yogurt/milk/cream and reserved water from the lauki. Bring it to a boil.
  • Let the gravy turn thicker and creamier. 
  • Crush kasoori methi in your fingers, sprinkle on the gravy and switch off the stove. 
  • You can add koftas to the gravy once gravy is switched off. Let them stand soaking for a few minutes before serving. 
  • You can arrange koftas in a bowl and pour hot gravy on top, let them stand for a few minutes before serving. 
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm.
  • Amount of besan you use in the koftas depends on how watery your bottle gourd is, the koftas do not need to become dry but jsut have to hold their shape. Use as little besan as possible. 
  • Mincing onions and pureeing tomatoes helps make the texture of the gravy smooth and silky. 
  • Creamy texture of kofta curries are achieved by using cashew nuts which are richers and higher calories than almonds. You can substitute almonds with cashew nuts but I find grinding almonds to a very smooth paste brings the texture very close to the cashew nut based gravy. My motto is eat tasty and healthy. 
  • If you are using the paddu pan for making the koftas, keep the heat on medium as all the ingredients are raw and need to be cooked well. 
  • Deep frying the koftas is the traditional way but either of the other two methods give you good competition for the deep frying method. Choose whichever suits your preference. 
  • Blanching tomatoes in hot water helps cook the curry faster, also cover and cook when you add the puree until the water reduces to avoid splattering.
  • I usually pick up and remove the bay leaves from the gravy before adding yogurt/cream step. This is enough time for the gravy to absorb the bay leaves flavor without turning bitter. 
  • To reheat, be gentle with the koftas. Microwave heating is best since you don't have to worry about it getting burnt. If doing stove top, use the mixing spoon gently so not to break the koftas.


NamsVeni Pothas said...

Louki ka kofta really very soft and tasty . without deep fry really i aprieciate your idea. keep it up. i love kofta and eager to taste it.

Meena Selvakumaran said...

I too wish we are served in banana leaf.Love u r fat less version of kofta curry.

Saranya Balaji said...

kofta looks delicious and well written...

Nandita SS said...

Scrumptious curry Nagasree!!Looks very inviting :)

Vani said...

I have to get myself one of those appe pans. Maybe from India this time. Heading there next week - super excited! :)

Nagashree said...

Thanks all for stopping by.

Vani - Enjoy your time in India girl, I am happy for you. Buy a non stick appe pan preferably, it works wonderfully.

Kaveri Venkatesh said...

These are one of my favorites..just love them...I like your addition of peanuts in the kofta mix..I too always make some extra koftas as they are really good just by themselves