Indian Meatballs (Kofta)

We learned three things from this recipe:

  1. You CAN get a restaurant-like texture to your sauces at home if you’re patient enough to let them simmer the full time and are willing to get a few more pieces of equipment dirty
  2. Metzgerei Salzberger is our new hookup for ground lamb in Regensburg
  3. A rice cooker is certainly a convenience a lot of the time, but we can do great pilau rice on the stovetop, too.

More on those three points:

  1. We’ve learned the spices, their combinations, and their preparations. Even the somewhat obscure stuff like hing (asafoetida) has made it into our repertoire. But one thing that has eluded us is the sauce consistency you get in a restaurant setting. Well, not anymore. Sarah has cracked the case. This stuff was amazing. The secret: patience and more equipment. Blenderize the sauce for extra smoothness, and then let the sauce cook down the whole prescribed amount of time, or longer.

  2. We’ve been looking for a good lamb supplier for a while now. Thus far, we’ve tried

    • frozen bricks of ground lamb from New Zealand
    • bony, cartilaginous meat bits from a butcher at the Donaumarkt, which we ground ourselves
    • and finally, Metzgerei Salzberger yesterday

    The New Zealand stuff tended to taste kind of metallic and generally odd. The lamb bits we ground ourselves tasted great in sausages, but the texture left something to be desired after Cliff trimmed it away from the ribs. Metzgerei Salzberger’s ground lamb seems to be just perfect. The only downer is: they only have it once every two weeks, and it sells out early from their stand on the Donaumarkt. But you can order it in advance. We are so pleased with the results from today that we want to order several kilograms to freeze for later use.

  3. Our rice cooker (one of our first purchases upon moving here) is slowly approaching the end of its life cycle. When it finally goes, we’ll have to replace it, but it does a pretty good job and was quite cheap at the time of purchase. Maybe we can prolong its life by doing the rice components of our Indian dishes in a pan, following this recipe. It was excellent.

So when Sarah spotted this recipe from Ribbon & Circus, we placed our lamb order and tried it out. Everything else in the recipe was either in our kitchen already or easily acquired from our local Asian market.

The recipe is in three parts. It looks daunting, but it’s actually fairly simple if you approach it in an organized manner. For example, we measured out all of the whole and ground spices before starting and portioned them into different bowls according to what needed to be added when. We also chopped all of the veggies at once in order to free up resources, then Cliff rolled and fried meatballs while Sarah blended up the raw sauce. The original is linked above and what we actually did is listed below.


Pilau Rice
2 c (about 400 g) basmati rice, well rinsed and set aside
1 1/2 T ghee or melted butter
1 t cumin seeds
4 green cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
3 c (700-750 ml) water
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste

1 lb (500 g) minced lamb or beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or put through garlic press
1 t curry powder
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
1/4 t cayenne pepper
salt to taste
2 T fresh cilantro/coriander, finely chopped
3 T plain yogurt

4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 in (2.5 cm) ginger, roughly chopped (use more if you’re a fan)
1 28 oz (850 g) can whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 t hot chili powder
1/2 t ground coriander
1 t garam masala
1 t sweet smoked paprika
1 T peanut oil
pinch hing powder
2 bay leaves
4 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
3/4 c (200 ml) water
chopped cilantro (optional for serving)
plain yogurt (optional for serving)

Mix together all ingredients for the meatballs. Fry a small ball to adjust the seasoning. We added a bit more salt. Divide the mixture into 12 equal-sized balls. Chill in fridge to allow them to firm up.

For the sauce, put garlic, ginger, tomatoes and onion into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the tomato mixture into a bowl and stir in the chili powder, coriander, garam masala and the paprika. Set aside.

Heat a thin layer of oil and carefully add the meatballs. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until browned on all sides and set aside. Drain all but one teaspoon of oil and add bay leaves, cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks to the pan and cook for a minute, until very fragrant. Pour in the sauce and cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the water to the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it thickens. Gently return the meatballs into the pan, cover and cook over low heat for 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the rice. Heat the ghee in a large pan. Add the cumin seeds, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves and fry for a minute or until the spices become very fragrant. Add the rinsed rice to the pan and stir well to coat it with ghee. Pour in water and salt and simmer for 10 minutes, until the rice is cooked through. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for another 5 minutes.

When serving, top rice, meatballs and sauce with cilantro leaves and a dollop of yogurt.

4 thoughts on “Indian Meatballs (Kofta)”

  1. CN Heidelberg

    We’ve been looking for asafoetida and cannot find it at all. Did you get it online?

    1. Sarah

      Nope, found it at the China Laden. It’s right next to the spices and looks like this:

      1. CN Heidelberg

        Man, it’s got to be there somewhere…I’ve looked so many times. Now I will look again knowing what at least one brand of it looks like in its container!

        1. cliff1976

          Hey, if your local China Laden really doesn’t carry it, just let us know and a package will make its way to you in Berlin at WEBMU 2012 (if you can wait that long). It’s gotta be cheaper than paying for shipping charges for offerings on

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