Goodbye recipe book...
I want to learn how to cook without a recipe. My parents have an entire repertoire of stuff they just know how to make. I, on the other hand, constantly refer back to the recipe to check on each and every quantity, step and time.
So when my mum was trying to think of what to make, I came across a recipe called Zucchini 'Meatballs' and suggested it.
"Oh, that's just kofta," she replied. Kofta is an Indian dish made of fried zucchini in a chickpea flour batter. It's often made in a tomato curry and we've always had it at our house.
So I put away the recipe book and asked my mum if I could make it and if she could teach me how to make it her way.
It's insanely simple but it felt good, as well as gave me time to chat and relax with my mum.
Although she made the curry while I was frying the koftas, I took note of what she put in. It's essentially the same as the pizza sauce we make (which I learnt without a recipe!) except with different spices.
Kofta curry is warm, complex in its flavours and easy to have with loads of different Indian or even Middle Eastern accompaniments. Plus, the plain koftas make a great rainy-day snack when they're fresh, warm and crisp.I'm contemplating how to present the 'recipe'. How ironic would it be if I gave you instructions with quantities, times and details?
Let's give it a go. Together. I'll give you the basics and see if you can experiment and judge by yourself to create the dish without a recipe
Madhur Jaffrey's recipe makes a much more dry mixture by letting the grated zucchini drain for about 1/2 an hour with a sprinkling of salt and then adding very little chickpea flour. This allows them to be shaped by hand and the koftas are more dense and solid. Ours makes more of a batter, making them softer and more absorbing of the curry.
Chickpea flour (besan)
1 or 2 zucchinis
Canola/ Vegetable oil
Coriander powder (dhaniya powder)
Peel the zucchinis and grate them. Grab hold of a bunch of grated zucchini and squeeze it to release as much water as you can and keep doing so until you've drained all the zucchini.
In a bowl, add some chickpea flour (start with a cup) and slowly add some water and mix. You want to get a thick yet smooth batter. Mix in a little bit of salt, a bit of coriander powder and a bit of garam masala. You're going to put more in the sauce, so no more than 1/2 a teaspoon of each.
Add the grated zucchini and mix well. It should be thick and not very runny, but pourable.
Heat some oil in a deep-frying wok and test if it's hot enough by putting in a little drop of batter. If it takes forever to cook, the oil is still cold. When the oil is hot enough, start to drop spoonfuls of your mixture in and fry them until they're a nice golden-brown.
When removing the koftas, hold your draining spoon against the back side of the wok to drain some oil off the koftas. My mum warned me not to hold it against the side facing you as you risk toppling the entire bowl of hot oil onto yourself...
Place the fried koftas in a colander or bowl lined with kitchen roll to absorb some oil. Keep them for the curry, or eat them fresh. If you made 2 zucchini's worth, you'll have a lot of koftas. Either eat the extras or freeze them in a ziploc bag or box.
1/2-1 big red onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Tomato Purée, and/or fresh tomatoes, washed and puréed
Coriander powder (dhaniya powder)
Ground roasted cumin (Jeera powder)
Sauté the onion and garlic in a big saucepan with some oil until lightly coloured or translucent. Add a few cloves and curry leaves and a generous teaspoon of each spice.
Add your fresh or packaged tomato purée, or a bit of both. If you're using only packaged purée, you'll need to add some water to thin it out and maybe some sugar, depending on how bitter it is. If you're serving it with rice, you'll need to thin it out more (runnier sauce), or add lots more tomatoes/purée (thicker sauce). If you're serving it with bread it can be thicker as you'll need less sauce.
For a creamier, lighter coloured curry (like the one in the picture), add a drop of cream or milk. You can also leave that out to get a purely tomato-y curry. Let it all cook and then add your koftas.
Serve with something like rice, parathas, rotis, naan or pita.