Murgh or chicken koftas, infused with aromatic spices, ginger and mint, simmered in an onion and yoghurt curry. Aka delectable and melt-in-the mouth Indian meatballs! Caution: Be ready with your spice cabinet wide open and those spice jars in front of you before you start cooking this dish! Just in case, a trip to the local Indian store or spice bazaar may be needed:-) Deemed necessary for this one. Rest assured, the koftas will take you on a journey to flavour heaven:-)
Traditionally in India, meat koftas are generally made with ground lamb, definitely meatier and juicier with its high fat content. I cannot help but reminisce over the delectable Kashmiri koftas my mom makes at home in India, it’s her trademark dish, a favourite! Coming back to this recipe, I decided to go with boneless skinless organic chicken thighs which I ground in my food processor, not that hard let me tell you. And I was not disappointed with the result- very juicy and soft koftas. Definitely not dry as one would expect out of chicken. I think using chicken thighs instead of chicken breast meat made a difference, since it does have more fat and is tastier in my opinion. What took it to flavour paradise was the use of fresh spices and ingredients and the made-from-scratch pastes and ground masalas while making this dish. I purposefully also made the curry on the lighter side, it wasn’t too thick, it had a soup-like consistency. Yes, there is chopping to do, getting all the right spices out of your cabinets and using that handy little food processor. Multitasking is thy name of the game during the making of these fabulous koftas. But it’s definitely worth it all if you have the time, patience and definitely the craving for eating something Indian, something curry-like, something not as greasy as Indian take-out food and something which will keep you and your tummy happy and satisfied for a while:-)
For the kofta :
Ground chicken – 1 lb, say 500 gms.
Chana daal or split yellow Bengal gram – 1/4 cup, soaked in a little water for an hour.
Chopped fresh mint – 1/2 cup
Chopped fresh coriander or cilantro -1/2 cup
Breadcrumbs – 1 tbsp.
Finely chopped fresh ginger – 1 tbsp.
Chopped green chillies or jalapeño – 1 tsp.
Red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp.
In a small food processor, grind together the following ingredients to make a masala or spice paste for the koftas-
3-4 cloves, a few peppercorns, depending on taste, how spicy you would like it, an inch piece of cinnamon, a couple of green cardamoms, 1/2 tsp. khus khus or poppy seeds, a blade of mace or 1/4 tsp. ground mace(a fragrant spice, it is the outer covering of a nutmeg), 2 garlic cloves, a 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, 1 Kashmiri whole dry red chilli(for a rich red colour, can substitute with paprika), the chana daal, with the water drained, 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds, and salt to taste.
Add the above paste to the ground chicken and mix well. Add the chopped chillies, mint, cilantro, ginger, red chilli powder and salt to taste. I add a little breadcrumbs to the mixture just to bind them. Form into koftas or golf ball sized meatballs.
Heat a tbsp. of canola oil in a non stick skillet on high heat. Add the koftas and fry them on medium high heat for few minutes, don’t have to cook them fully, they will cook in the curry later. I follow this step just to ensure that the koftas don’t break, if I were to add them directly in the curry itself.
For the curry :
1 large onion, chopped
Ghee or clarified butter – 1 tsp.
Canola oil – 1 tbsp.
Plain yoghurt – 1 cup, whipped till smooth
2 cups water
Salt to taste
For the curry paste :
In the food processor, grind together the following ingredients :
2 garlic cloves, 1 inchpiece ginger, 1 Kashmiri whole red chilli, a couple each ofcloves, green cardamoms, peppercorns, 1/4 tsp. khus khus, 1 tsp.cumin seeds, 1 tbsp. ground coriander, 1/2 tsp. red chilli powder, 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder. Can add a little water while grinding it for a smooth consistency. Set aside.
In a deep bottomed pan or Dutch oven, heat ghee on medium high heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté till it turns a deep golden colour. Add the brown onions to the food processor and grind to a paste. Set aside.
In the same pan, heat canola oil over medium high heat. Add the curry paste and sauté for a few minutes on medium heat. Add the yoghurt and continue stirring the mixture. Add the brown onion paste and stir and cook for a few minutes. Add the koftas. Add salt to taste. Add about 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for about 25-30 mins.till koftas are cooked. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro. Best eaten with steamed white Basmati rice.