Kadhi, Not Curry
A keema kofta recipe is a good way to restart my posts, I think. Since my last post, I’ve moved to a different city and have been living in temporary digs waiting for the current wave of the pandemic to calm down before I can move into my new home. Locked down, I try to keep my cooking interesting in my tiny, temp kitchen. This is one such attempt. Keema kofta curries are popular in different regional cuisines in India and this recipe borrows influences from them.
Kadhi is a curry (feels wrong to call it that but there’s no other English word that qualifies) made with besan (gram flour) and sour yoghurt, tempered with hing (asafoetida) , cumin, mustard and fenugreek seeds. Thought to have cooling properties, kadhis are a popular summer dish. In Punjab, kadhi is thick and hearty with pakoras (deep fried gram flour fritters) floating in it. The Gujarati and Maharashtrian kadhis are thinner and a little sweet with a distinct aroma of curry leaves, ginger and green chillies. Kadhi for Sindhis is also a tangy, besan-based curry, but it is tamarind rather than yoghurt that is relied on to add the sourness. Loaded with a variety of vegetables, this is a one dish meal eaten with plain rice.Then there is the spicy Marwari kadhi from Rajasthan, the Bihari kadhi with besan badis, ripe mango kadhi, methi kadhi, the varieties are endless.
My post today is on keema kofta kadhi. Thin, Gujarati-style kadhi floating with succulent chicken kofta. I would normally go with mutton, but hot, summer days call for a lighter kofta, that’s easier on the tummy. My favourite thing about this dish is the salty-sweet-tangy kadhi infused with chicken juice after the koftas have simmered in it. Their meaty umami seeps into the kadhi transforming it into something deeply savoury, almost like a master sauce that has simmered for hours building its flavours. I would like nothing better than to drink cupfulls of this brothy sauce.
Crafting the koftas
This keema kofta recipe is really simple and they cook really quickly, barely taking 7-10 minutes. Goes without saying that, the keema must be smooth, soft and gristle-free for this to happen. Chicken keema can end up being very dry if there is no fat in it. So if possible, buy minced chicken thighs. Thighs also pack in much more flavour than the white breast meat. If you can’t lay your hands on these, don’t worry, regular mince will also give you delicious kofta. I grind the mince one more time in my processor to render it silky smooth and to combine it with the aromatics like ginger, garlic, green chillies and ground spices. To bind the koftas, I add a couple of tablespoons of besan (gram flour). The resulting mixture is easy to shape into walnut-size balls, ready to be plopped into the gently simmering kadhi.
Balancing the kadhi
I find simple, straightforward dishes can be messed up just as easily. Poaching an egg, for example. It’s the same with kadhi. The recipe may have but a few steps but it’s important to get them right.The truth is that when a simple dish is cooked with a deliberate attention to the steps, the difference in taste is perceptible. Khichdi is a straightforward dish and yet I’ve eaten khichdis that have transported me with their finesse. This keema kofta recipe has a thin kadhi that must be balanced in its sweet, salty and sour flavours. The key is to taste the kadhi a few times and correct any imbalances. This isn’t difficult, it’s just something worth paying attention to. Chicken kofta cook quickly. Cut into one to check for doneness. In case of mutton kofta, cook them for 15 minutes more and they should be cooked to juicy perfection.
Keema Kofta Kadhi
For the kofta
- 500 g Chicken mince
- 3 tbsp besan (gram flour or chickpea flour)
- 1 tsp red chilli powder (cayenne)
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 green chilli, chopped
- 1 tsp ginger, chopped
For the kadhi
- 400 g sour yoghurt
- 3 tbsp besan or gram flour
- 750 ml water
- 2 dried red chillies
- 10 curry leaves
- 1 tsp ginger, finely chopped
- ¼ tsp hing or asafoetida powder
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 small pieces of cinnamon
- 3-4 cloves
- 2 fresh green chillies slit lengthwise
- In a blender / food processor, whizz the chicken mince along with all the other kofta ingredients for a couple of minutes till you have a , thick, smooth, slightly sticky paste.
- Shape this mixture into walnut-size koftas, intermittently wetting your fingers with water to prevent them from sticking. Chill the koftas in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Whisk the besan, turmeric, sugar, salt and yoghurt in a deep bowl to get a lump-free paste. Now whisk in the water to get a thin, slurry-like mixture.
- Heat the ghee in a pot and add the mustard and cumin seeds, asafoetida, curry leaves, cinnamon, cloves and red chillies. Once the tempering crackles, lower the flame immediately (to avoid burning the spices). Add the ginger and green chillies. Saute for 15 seconds.
- Pour in the besan mixture, stir well and bring the kadhi to a gentle boil, reduce to a simmer and gently drop in the koftas. Allow the kofta to cook for 7-10 minutes.
- When the koftas are done, check the flavour balance of the kadhi, add extra, sugar/salt if required. Serve the keema kofta kadhi warm with plain, steamed rice, papa and pickle.