There could be nothing more traditional than Koftay when it comes to Pakistani cuisine…..
It’s interesting to see how many different countries of the world have Koftay as a major part of their cuisine. Central-Asian countries, North African, Mediterranean and so many more. Usually made of ground meat (lamb, chicken , beef or veal) with varying flavors, size and shape as we move from region to region. In traditional Pakistani cuisine, Koftay translate to ground beef meatballs. However, you can use ground lamb or chicken if you take a more contemporary approach.Koftay usually are served as part of the main course, and most of the time are expected to give a stellar performance (depending on how you make them!!). The good thing is that you can make lots of meatballs and freeze them ahead of time, and you only need to make the sauce(gravy) to complete the serving, saving you a lot of hassle.
This recipe that I’m sharing today has been many years in the making and I think I have finally found the key to making really soft meatballs that don’t break whilst they are cooking and the overall recipe is quite delectable (or so I have been told on numerous occasions). Mostly I’m really critical of all the food I make but this is pretty much my all time favorite. Also it has been approved by my kids, they said “Yes, it’s good” after I asked them ten thousand times, which is proof enough. Now I am not a big fan of using ready-made masalas (spice-mixtures), so this recipe is from scratch. It may look a bit intimidating and lengthy, but it’s not difficult and the results will make you want to spend a few more minutes on it every single time, I promise!!!! It’s a two-step process: 1) Koftay/meatballs and 2) gravy. I’ll explain them separately. Keep in mind, that I am going to use the term “koftas” to refer to the meatballs (just mentioning this in case you get confused).
Lets gather what we need for the meatballs first.
- 1/2 kg ground chicken/lamb/beef (drain all the water)
- 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
- 1 medium-sized onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4th tablespoon ginger paste
- 1 chopped green chillies
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 10-11 peeled almonds
- 2 tbsp coconut powder/ crushed coconut.
- 1 tbsp white poppy seeds/ khash-khaash/ post-dana
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
- 1/4 tsp red chilli powder
- 2 tsp rice flour
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 6 tablespoons oil
- 2 tablespoons chickpeas/gram flour/besan.
- Soak the white poppy seeds in warm water for 15 minutes and then blend to get a paste. Sometimes I use a mortar and pestle, sometimes I don’t. As long as the paste is thick and creamy that’s fine.
- Don’t forget to ask your butcher to make the meat super fine for you or you can do that yourself at home by grinding the minced beef/chicken one more time in the grinder. This way the koftas hold together much better.
- Make sure that you drain as much water as you can from the meat. Leave it aside for some time.
- Make a paste of ginger, garlic and almonds.
- Mix together all the dry ingredients and the paste we made in step 4 with the meat.
- Turn the stove on medium heat.
- In a pan add 4 tablespoons of oil and once it heats up add the sliced onions. Saute until they turn slightly golden. Take them out and drain the oil. It’s alright to add some of the oil from the onions to the meat. Now place in a blender with some water and blend until smooth (Note: don’t add too much water, or the koftas will break when heated).
- In the same pan that we used to fry the onions put 1 tablespoon heaped besan(chickpea flour) and fry it for 3-4 minutes or until the color starts to turn a shade darker. Besan acts as a binder to keep the koftas from breaking apart whilst they are cooking. Turn off the stove and let the besan cool.
- Mix everything together. Your koftas are ready to take shape.
- To make sure that all your efforts don’t go to waste, make one kofta to check if any fixes are required.
- Turn on the stove setting it to medium or high heat.
- In a saucepan, fill enough water to cover the meatball. When the water starts to boil put the meatball in and cover with a lid, let it boil for 10 minutes. Check and see if it is too hard or too soft. Follow the steps below to fix (as required):
- If the meatballs are too soft and coming apart then: Add another tablespoon of besan(chickpea flour) and mix it in with the ground meat.
- If the meatballs are too hard then: Slice a small onion and repeat step 7. Add this mixture to the meat and mix well.
Make round shaped meatballs, they should fit the palm of your hand. Don’ make them super large, they would take longer to cook. You can make these ahead of time as I mentioned above and freeze them. They are good for more than a month.
How we serve Pakistani food is a huge part of the dish. You can’t really skip them, you can but it won’t taste the same.The reason why we prepare the garnish first is because the oil will absorb all the flavors of the ingredients and gives the gravy a much more kofta-like taste..yumm.. I think I’m trying to say finger-licking literally:D
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1 small onion, sliced very thinly
- 7-6 almonds
- 3-4 green chillies (less if you don’t like spicy food)
- Heat oil in a pan.
- Fry the onions on medium-high flame until they are dark brown but not burnt. The only reason why we want the onion very thinly sliced is because we want them really crispy in the end. The thinner they are the crisper they will fry.
- Spread the onions on a paper towel and let them cool. You will see that as they cool they become crispier.
- Fry the almonds in the same pan until they are a shade darker. Spread on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
- Fry the green chillies in the same oil as well and spread on a paper towel to absorb excess oil .These ingredients are cooked separately because each one cooks at a different temperature.
- Keep these things on the side to use later.
- Keep the same pan on the stove we will use the same oil and pan for making the gravy.
KOFTA GRAVY/ SAUCE:
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 3 + 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 tsp garlic paste
- 1/4 tsp ginger paste
- 1/2 tsp salt or as much as you like
- 1/4 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 pinch of turmeric
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander powder
- 6-7 peeled almonds
- 1/2 tsp white poppy-seed paste
- 1 tsp roasted chana(chickpeas)
- 1 tsp crushed coconut/coconut powder.
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4th tsp whole black peppercorns
- 3 green cardamom pods, we will use the seeds inside.
- 2 tbsp whipped yogurt
- In the same pan that we used to make the garnish add some more oil and fry the onion until golden brown. Remove from heat and take the onions out of the pan.
- In a blender put the fried onion, almonds, white poppy-seed paste, roasted chickpeas and crushed coconut and water. Blend until smooth. Keep aside.
- Using a mortar and pestle crush the cumin, black peppercorns and seeds of a green cardamom. Keep aside.
- Turn the heat to low and add ginger and garlic paste to the pan and saute until fragrant.
- As soon as it start to sizzle add 2 tablespoons of water and add all the dry spices. Salt, Red chilli powder, turmeric and coriander powder. Saute for 1-2 minutes.
- Now add the onion paste that we made in the blender to the pan. Turn the heat to medium and cook this paste for 5-7 minutes, make sure to not burn this. If you see it sticking to the pan, turn the heat a little bit lower.
- Mix in the crushed spices we made in step 3.
- Keep cooking.
- Add yogurt and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Add water to the pan. Start with adding 3 cups water first and then add more depending on how much gravy you want to have in the end. Just remember that the gravy for koftay needs to have a thicker consistency.
- Turn the flame to medium and when the water heats up add the meatballs and cover the pan.
- If you have chicken meatballs, let it cook for 25-30 minutes and if you have beef then 35-40 minutes. You can speed up this part but let me tell you that the flavors you get from slow cooking are absolutely amazing.
- Now when the water reduces to your desired consistency, and you see a glaze over the gravy, turn the flame off.
- Take out the koftay in a bowl/serving dish, top with the garnish we made. Also sprinkle some cumin powder for added cumin-ness ( I just made up that word, my vocabulary keeps expanding. I wonder why??).
TIPS AND TRICKS:
- Once we add the koftay to the pan its better to avoid excessive stirring as that might cause them to break. Just give the pan a little shake every time you feel like you want to move the contents around.
- Don’t add the koftay to cook in cold or room temperature water. Use warm water. If you see that you need to add more water while it’s cooking, warm it separately and then add to the pan.
Phewwww!!!! This took me way too long to write. I just wanted to make sure that I don’t miss a single step and everything is crystal clear. Serve with tandoori naan, home-made roti, sheermaal (Sheermal or Shirmal, is a saffron-flavored somewhat sweet, traditional flat-bread made in Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan).
Aa jao guys “Koftay” tayyar hain !!!!