Pistachio, green chilli and yoghurt kofta with kale in a fresh tomato-coconut sauce and cardamom-lime pancakes

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This is one of many different kofta dishes we’ve been doing since I first took a shine to a simple basic recipe in a book by Tarla Dalal. The basic combination of yoghurt, gram flour and spices is essentially a dumpling batter which, when deep-fried, is delicious on its own in a sauce but will also accommodate all kinds of additions - different nuts & spices, chopped cooked vegetables like aubergine, peppers, roots or mashed pumpkin. The tomato-coconut sauce is so moreish in its own right that we usually serve the kofta in soup-like portions of it and use spoons to slurp what the kofta and pancakes don’t absorb. Although the kofta are ideally suited to being part of an Indian feast including breads, rice, chutneys, curries, dhals and so on, it would be a rare occasion when we would undertake the preparation required. A small portion can make a stimulating starter, but most often we serve them at lunch as they are here, nestling with a little greenery in a rich soup with some simple pancakes for mopping up. The quantities here are for a bare four portions with no leftovers. However, everything keeps well and its no more trouble to make it up to six or more. I would recommend you make as much sauce as you’ve got tomatoes, as many pancakes as you can be bothered and only as much kofta batter as you will need today.

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Ingredients

  • 200 mls thick yoghurt
  • 100 g gram flour
  • 50 g shelled pistachios
  • 2 fresh green chillies
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • small handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4-5 stalks of kale, to serve

For the Sauce

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp medium curry powder
  • 400 g ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 50 g coconut cream block
  • 400 mls water
  • 30 mls single cream
  • ¼ tsp salt

For 12-16 Cardamom-Lime Pancakes

  • 20 cardamom seeds
  • 60 g strong flour
  • 60 g rice flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • rind and juice ½ lime
  • 1 egg
  • 240 mls coconut milk

Method

PUT THE YOGHURT in a bowl and sift the gram flour over it. Chop the pistachios and add them to the bowl. Slice the chillies in half lengthways, then chop them into thin half-rounds and add these to the bowl with the cumin seeds, turmeric, salt and coriander. Stir everything together to get a thick batter - add the soda just before you begin deep-frying the kofta.

Cook the onion in a little oil for a few minutes, then add the garlic and spices and continue cooking until the onion is soft. Add the tomatoes and stew them until they break down, then add the coconut and the water. Simmer for ten minutes, then puree the sauce, sieve out the solids and return the liquid to the pan. Add the cream and boil briskly for one minute. The consistency should be that of a thin creamy soup, which is what it is really, I suppose. Keep it warm, or set it aside to be reheated as you need it.

Deep-fry the kofta by carefully sliding teaspoonfuls into hot oil, preferably at about 180°C/350°F, in batches. Cook them until golden brown, turning them once. Keep batches warm in an oven while you cook the rest. At the same time, take the kale off the stalks, coarsely chop it and cook it in boiling water for a few minutes. Ladle the sauce into bowls, put six or seven kofta in each one and tuck little bunches of kale in around them. Scatter some fresh coriander over each bowl and serve with a pile of warm pancakes.

TAKE THE BLACK SEEDS from the cardamom pods and discard the pods. Crush the seeds in a grinder. Sift the flours, salt, lime rind and cardamom. Whisk the egg into the coconut milk and the lime juice, then whisk this into the flours. This should give you a thick pouring batter. Heat a large frying pan to a medium-low heat. Brush it very lightly with oil, then pour in one to three small ladlefuls of the batter, about one tablespoon each to give a diameter of about 5cm. Fry the pancakes for about two minutes, then flip them over and fry the other side. Turn them out on to a plate in a random pile - they won’t stick to each other. If you make them in advance, and you can - up to a day - they reheat very well in a low oven.