Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cooking: Cabbage Koftas

Cabbage KoftasOne of my favorite cooking web sites is Manjula's Kitchen. I especially love watching her knead doughs for rotis, parathas, and other Indian breads, using just her right hand. But what a hand! So expressive.

I've made several of her recipes, although I usually dial back the chilies to better suit our palates.

Recently, she posted a video about making Cabbage Koftas, fritters made from mostly cabbage, with some seasonings and a binder. Manjula serves her koftas in a spicy tomato gravy, but I wondered what they would be like in a mixed vegetable curry with coconut milk. Dinner with friends presented the perfect opportunity. I used garbanzo flour instead of gram flour (which is made from hulled black lentils) and a modified frying technique. Here's my revised recipe.

Cabbage Koftas
makes about 16 koftas

2 cups finely shredded cabbage (I used red cabbage)
1 hot chili, seeded and chopped (I used a Santa Fe chili; jalapeƱo or serrano would work well, too)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 teaspoon whole cumin seed (or use 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cups garbanzo flour
oil for frying (I used sunflower oil; coconut oil would work beautifully, too)

Begin heating oil over medium-high heat in a cast-iron or stainless steel skillet. There should be 1/2 inch of oil in the pan.

Combine cabbage, chili, cilantro, ginger, cumin seed, salt and flour in a bowl and combine. Using your hand, press the mixture together, squeezing as you go, until the cabbage exudes enough moisture for the whole thing to hold together. Keep at it—this can take a few minutes.

Test the oil by dropping a small ball of the "dough" into it. The oil should start to bubble around it.

Form small ovals of the mixture by squeezing them and patting them into shape, then gently lay them in the hot oil. Continue with as many as will fit in the pan without them touching—if you crowd them, things will steam, not fry. Leave them alone, bubbling away, for a couple of minutes, then gently turn them. I just used a table fork for this. If you try to turn them before the bottom has crusted, they will break.

Continue cooking on the other side until it, too, is crisp and golden brown. Press the ovals lightly with the tines of the fork—when they feel solid, they're done. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel, then continue cooking the remaining mixture until they're all fried.

These are utterly delicious to eat out of hand and would make a great appetizer or first course, served perhaps with a fresh chutney. Frankly, they were so good, I don't even think that is necessary.

I used them in a different fashion, however, placing four of them in the bottom of the dish before serving a luscious vegetable curry over and around them. The curry contained lots of onion, garlic, ginger, fresh turmeric, chopped chilies, carrots, yams, cauliflower and green beans, plus coconut milk. Seasoned liberally with home-made curry powder, it was sublime.

The delightfully chewy, rich-tasting koftas were like little bundles of treasure. I'll definitely be making these again, soon.

Curry with Cabbage Koftas

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