My introduction to this dish was cooked for me by a wonderful Sikh lady many years ago in Hong Kong. I have long striven to perfect the recipe and bring it close to the original. The genius of this dish is in the cross-cooking of the koftes from frying to poaching them in the sauce.
The original recipe calls for bottle gourd or dudhi (calabash), but courgettes (zuccini) are a very close approximation which is readily available to me.
Oil for deep frying
2 large courgettes (zuccini), grated
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of toasted cumin (jeera) seeds
6 spring onions very finely chopped
2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons of crushed garlic
1 cup of gram flour (besan)*
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
A pinch of panch poran or cumin seeds (optional)
2 cups of finely chopped or blended onions
1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger
4 cloves of crushed garlic
4 teaspoons of mild Madras curry powder
1 cup of canned chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup of garden peas
2 whole hot green chilli peppers
1 cup of good vegetable stock
A generous pinch of fresh coriander (cilantro)
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all the koftes ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to form a stiff batter, adding a little water if the mixture is too cloying, or a little more flour if too loose. Shape handfuls of the batter into small balls or quenelles and fry until brown. Set aside.
Heat the oil until hot and add the panch poran or cumin seeds, fry until they start to pop. Add the onions then stir and fry over a medium heat until the onions soften and begin to brown. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to stir and fry until a characteristic sweet smell comes from the pot and the mixture browns as the onions caramelise. Add the curry powder and stir for 1 minute. Add the stock, peas, tomatoes and chillies and stir to mix. Simmer for at least 15 minutes then add the cooked koftes. Stir very gently so as not to break up the koftes and slow-simmer until the koftes are heated through. Season to taste then add the coriander garnish.
I like to serve this on steamed basmati rice with Indian mixed pickle and a naan, pitta bread or other flat bread on the side. Excellent with a cucumber and mint raita or with Greek tzatziki.
I once served this dish to some of my army friends, and it wasn't till after the meal they discovered it had no meat in it; one of them asked me what meat it was, and I said, "Courgettes"!
The kofte mix can be fried in patties and served as veggie burgers. They also make nice vegan sausages.
Veggie koftes are a great snack, served like falafel with salad in warm pitta bread pockets with hot pepper sauce.
*You can use plain (general purpose) wheat flour, spelt flour, polenta or cous-cous instead of gram flour, but gram flour (besan) is best if you can find it. It is possible to make besan by grinding dried chick peas or yellow split peas (channa) in a coffee grinder until it is a fine powder.
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