Sunday, April 22, 2007

M is for Malai Kofta

The myriad cuisines of India all love their vegetables! Veggies are diced and sliced, grated and mashed, stir-fried and curried into hundreds of vegetable dishes. In this series, the A to Z of Indian Vegetables, we take an alphabetical journey through the various avatars of vegetables relished in Indian cuisine. For each letter, we will make a tasty vegetable dish that illustrates one manner in which vegetables are savored in India.

The "M" of Indian Vegetables
The letter M inspired twenty-seven mouthwatering Indian flavors!

Off to a start with the M vegetables, two green beauties and one root vegetable...

...we have those delicate pearls, the green peas or Matar (mutter), as they are called in Hindi. Tee of Bhaatukli starts us off with a healthy and tasty appetizer: she mashes some green peas and spices together and shapes the mixture into some yummy Matar Kababs.

...and after green peas, we have a green leafy vegetable, Methi or fenugreek. Methi hold pride of place in an Indian kitchen, playing multiple roles as a vegetable, herb and spice. Pictured: Three forms of methi...fresh methi leaves, dried methi (kasuri methi) and methi seeds.
Today, the versatility of fresh methi is being celebrated with four delicious entrees:

First up, Richa of As Dear As Salt comes up with an unusual (and addictive!) combination: she cooks together fresh methi and ripe bananas into a sweet-and-savory Gujarati dish called Methi Kela Nu Shaak.

Next, methi comes to the rescue when you are in the mood for some good ol' comfort food. Dee of Ammalu's Kitchen transforms plain chickpea flour into a steaming hot bowl of Methi Pitla with the addition of a handful of aromatic methi leaves.

Dal and rice are two of the most basic dishes on the Indian vegetarian table. I'm always looking for variations on both of these. Latha of Masala Magic shows us how fresh methi can be used to jazz up our old favorites with two great recipes for Methi Dal and Methi Rice.

The third vegetable is a pungent but well-loved root: the Mooli or radish, and is usually available as either the large snow-white radish or small globes of red radishes. We have two great home-style ways of using the radish here:

Musical of Musical's Kitchen writes an informative post about the diverse uses of the radish in Indian cooking, and goes on to make a typical Punjabi dish combining radish and Punjabi masala wadis (a dried cake of lentils and spices) into one hearty Mooli-Wadi Subzi.

TC of The Cooker makes a Marathi-style salad with the radish, combining grated radish with some cilantro, peanuts and tempering to make a fresh and tasty Moolya-chi Koshimbir. This is TC's debut post, so let's give her a warm welcome to the food blog world!

An M herb that remains a favorite of cooks (for its bold and bright aroma) and gardeners (for its prolific growth) is Mint! Summer's coming, and we will see an abundance of mint from the kitchen garden, plus a hunger for lighter fare like sandwiches. Sreelu of Sreelu's Tasty Travels puts the two together and comes up with a flavorful Mint Tea Sandwich that is sure to be a hit at picnics and tea parties.

Next, an M fruit that is so much more than just a fruit: it rules the Indian psyche and holds our memories captive: the Mango! I'm so thrilled that M for Mango is coming around in mid-April, for this is the peak of mango season in India. While ripe mangoes are prized for eating out of hand, and blending into milkshakes and ice creams, the tangy raw mangoes are equally, if not more, prized for their versatility in the kitchen.

First, a mango pickle! Pickles are a tasty way to preserve mangoes for the entire year. All regions of India seem to have their own favorites. Pickles vary on the sweet-sour-spicy spectrum, in the use of different spice combinations, and in the form of the mango itself- tender baby mangoes are pickled whole, larger raw mangoes might be cubed or shredded. One such extremely tasty and popular pickle involves mixing grated mangoes with a freshly ground spice mixture to make a mouth-watering Mango Thokku -a recipe shared by Sharmi of Neivedyam.

Other dishes featuring raw and ripe mangoes are made and savored specially during the mango season, making them all the more treasured and desirable.

Sigma of Live To Eat shares a traditional way in which raw mangoes are used in Kerala, blending green mango and coconut with other aromatic ingredients (ginger, chilies and shallots) into an amazing Green Mango Chutney. Conventionally, the chutney is served as a relish with meals, but Sigma shows her creativity in using this chutney as a dip for chips.

Sheela of Delectable Victuals chooses a traditional yogurt-based South Indian salad, and mixes tradition with ingenuity. She blends ripe mango with some Mexican flair, adding pickled jalapeno and dried ancho chilies, and then folds in some yogurt to make a cool (in more ways than one!), creamy and inviting Mango Pachadi.

Bharathy of Spicy Chilly also has her own unique spin on a classic! Instead of yogurt, she chooses to use some thick, creamy coconut milk, and mixes it with sweet-and-sour semi-ripe mango and a selection of fragrant spices to make a perfectly delicious Mango Salad.

After all those delicious mango salads and relishes, our appetite is whetted for some main courses, right? Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi serve up two traditional Southern Indian recipes, Mamidikaya Annam and Mango Thokku, using the raw mango. Each recipe comes from a new cookbook in their collection. The first dish is a tempting raw mango rice, combining tangy shredded mango with cooked rice, a delicate tempering and some cool coconut. The second is a shredded mango pickle that looks just fiery and inviting: the mango thokku.

In our final mango recipe, Sandeepa of Bong Mom's Cookbook makes another main dish, the dal. The humble everyday dal is elevated to new levels of flavor with the addition of sliced raw mango, chilies and tempering, resulting in a Mango Dal, known more lyrically in Bengali as Tak er Dal or "dal which is a little sour in taste".

Next, a whole slew of M dals that are an integral part of the Indian pantry: Masoor and Moong and Matki. A example to explain the nomenclature: the whole seed is called " sabut masoor" (sabut=whole or intact) or just "masoor" and when the masoor is split by removing the skin, it turns into the "dal" form, as in "masoor dal". I love the whole lentils/ pulses because they can be sprouted to make them even more nutritious, and I love the split lentils because they cook up quickly and are very convenient to use. Pictured: Supermarket-variety whole brown lentils or "masoor", pink and skinless split lentils or "masoor dal" and a bean that I just love but that is not sold in American stores: "matki", also called "moth".
Today, we have four dishes with all these little gems, a complete meal with appetizer, two main courses and dessert:

First, a rich and elaborate appetizer: Ayesha of Experimenting with Taste Buds makes a dough with cooked masoor dal and potato, then stuffs the dough with a rich savory egg mixture to make patties, then fries and garnishes the patties with egg whites and fried onions. All this labor of love results in a Masoor Dal Kebab that is fit for royalty...or just for the king or queen in your life!

Asha of Aroma/Foodie's Hope uses the tasty little "matki" beans and combines them with rice and spices to make a Matki Pulao that looks perfectly delicious and very versatile.

Swapna of Swad intended to make the traditional moong curry "moogambat" but ended up inventing a delicious recipe of her own: her Moogambhaat has rice and sprouted moong, and tons of flavor. Very clever way to save the day!

Aarti of Aarti's Corner, a brand-new food blogger (Welcome, Aarti!), gives us the final dal entry, a luscious and nutritious Moong Dal Kheer, made by blending cooked moong dal with some aromatic cardamom and saffron.

The next M dish is a popular one in restaurants: Malai Kofta. There are dozens of interpretations of this dish, although in broad terms, "malai" is cream and "kofta" is dumplings. Here are two home-made versions...

Pinki of Come Cook With Me makes a rich and festive version of Malai Kofta, complete with nuts and fresh cream.

NC of The Good Food makes two restaurant-style dishes, a version of the malai kofta and another that represents one of my favorite "M" foods: the mushroom! See her Malai Kofta and Mushroom Matar post here. This is NC's debut post, so here's wishing her lots of fun in the food blog world!

M also stands for mixed, the more veggies, the merrier! We have two ways of mixin' it up...

Mika of The Green Jackfruit can't really decide on one single "M" vegetable, so she cooks 'em all in a colorful and tempting Mili Juli Sabzi: mili-juli is a cute Hindi word that roughly translates as "all together" or "mixed".

Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine makes a festive curry studded with vegetables called Mixed Vegetable Chalna.

Some regional "M" words...

April is "Tamil Month" over at Lakshmi's regional food event, so it is only fitting that we start with four Tamil recipes.

Murungakai is drumstick in Tamil. This tasty and off-beat vegetable is cooked into a traditional Murungakai Vetha Koyamb by Ranjani of Eat and Talk.

Mor is buttermilk in Tamil. Prema of My Cookbook makes a beloved buttermilk curry called Mor Kuzhambu that is made even tastier with the addition of an assortment of veggies.

Manathakkali is quite an unusual berry, the black nightshade/sunberry that is often used in its dried form in Tamil cuisine. Santhi of Me and My Food Thoughts provides a traditional use for this berry with her recipe for Vatral Kuzhambu with Manathakkali.

The final Tamil dish is a technique rather than an ingredient. Masiyal is a way of mashing cooked greens. Nandita of Saffron Trail shares her mom's traditional technique of making Spinach Masiyal and also tells us the various ways in which spinach is cooked in the Tamil kitchen.

The next dish comes from the state of Andhra Pradesh. Mirapakaya is peppers in Telugu. Suma of Veggie Platter combines peppers and potato into a spicy and delicious curry called Mirapakaya Aloo Koora.

For the final dish (and what a finale!), we travel north all the way to Punjab. Coffee of The Spice Cafe tempts us with a Punjabi classic: Missi Roti with Sarson ka Saag. The Missi Roti is a classic roti made with a combination of wheat flour and chickpea flour, and served with some spicy mustard greens, or sarson ka saag, it is a match made in heaven!

M is for Malai Kofta: Dumplings

D-U-M-P-L-I-N-G: the word itself is so cute and cuddly! Dumplings of all forms and shapes can be found in a multitude of cuisines. They can take the form of little packets of dough enclosing a surprise filling- such as some of the dim sum treats of Chinese cuisine, or the Polish peirogi; or they can be little balls of dough in a flavorful sauce or stew- like the matzo balls of Jewish cuisine or the Italian gnocchi. Fried or steamed, savory or sweet, dumplings are just plain fun to make and eat!

In Indian cuisine, dumplings stretch across the spectrum from appetizers to desserts. Some examples of dumpling dishes I can think of are...
Appetizers: samosa, with flaky dough encasing a spicy potato-peas mixture,
Entrees: kofta curry, in which shredded vegetables are mixed with chickpea flour, shaped into balls, deep-fried and dunked into a spicy tomato-onion curry; kadhi-pakoda, in which dough-based dumplings are added to a buttermilk sauce,
Desserts: modak, made with a sweet coconut-poppy seed filling inside a pillow of steamed dough...the list goes on and on.

Today, I am making a trimmed-down version of a restaurant classic: malai kofta. As the name "malai" (cream) would suggest, the restaurant version consists of deep-fried dumplings soaked with a heavy, creamy sauce. I have seen two different categories of malai kofta in restaurants: one is based on a a pale white milky curry which is almost more sweet than spicy, and the other is a typical tomato-onion based spicy brown curry. My own version is infinitely lighter than anything you would find in a restaurant, but to me, it is quite delicious and I don't think I am sacrificing any taste. Just that artery-clogging fat :)

Malai Kofta

A. The curry base:
1. Soak 2 tbsp white poppy seeds (khus-khus) and 10-12 cashew nuts in 1/4 cup of warm water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then grind together to a thick and fine paste.
2. In a saucepan, heat 2 tbsp oil. Saute 1 large onion, finely chopped, and 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste until golden brown. Stir in 1 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp red chili powder and salt to taste.
3. Add 1 cup peeled chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned), 1 tsp garam masala and cook for 10 minutes on low-medium heat.
4. Add the cashew-poppy seed paste and stir well. Using an immersion blender, blend the curry to get a smooth sauce (you can use a conventional blender, but be careful as this stuff is hot; you can also leave the sauce chunky and not blend it at all). 5. Stir in 1/3 cup cream or milk (I used 2% milk). I also added 1/2 tsp of my Mom's magic masala (equal parts cinnamom, cardamom and cloves, toasted and ground together). Set the sauce aside.
B. The dumplings, or kofta:
1. Make the stuffing: Mix 1/4 cup green peas, 1/4 cup finely chopped green beans and 1/4 cup finely diced carrot. Cook until tender (I microwaved for 2 minutes). To this add 1 fresh chili, minced fine, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1/3 cup shredded paneer, 1 tbsp golden raisins (I substituted with some dried apricot instead), 1 tbsp cashew nut pieces, and a sprinkle of salt.
2. Take 3 medium potatoes, boil, peel and mash them. Add salt to taste and knead into a dough. Make golf-ball sized balls of the potato dough. Take each ball into your palm, flatten it, add a tbsp of stuffing, then fold the edges of the potato to encase the stuffing. Flatten into a patty. Make all the patties, then shallow-fry them in a little oil until golden-brown.
When ready to serve, arrange the patties on a serving platter, pour the sauce over the patties and garnish with fresh cilantro.

How do you serve this dish?
Serve malai kofta with some parathas or naan to sop up the thick curry. Alternatively, serve it with a peas pulao or jeera rice.

Fellow bloggers have come up with many delicious dishes with dumplings. Here are some of my favorite finds:
Beetroot Kofta Curry from My Foodcourt,
Low-fat Kofta Curry from A Mad Tea Party,
Palak Kofta Curry from Sailu's Food,
Gheea Koftey from As Dear As Salt,
Marbled Minty Kofta from Mysoorean,
Punjabi Kadi from Neivedyam,
Kadhi Gole from Swaypakghar.

Previously on the A to Z of Indian Vegetables...
A is for Aloo Gobi: North-Indian Stir-Fry
B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables
C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
D is for Dum ki Arbi: Dum Style of Cooking
E is for Egg-Fried Rice: Rice and Vegetables
F is for Foogath: South-Indian Stir-Fry
G is for Gobi Paratha: Vegetables in Breads
H is for Hariyali Tikki: Vegetables in Appetizers
I is for Idli with Vegetables: Vegetables for Breakfast
J is for Jalfrezi Vegetables: Restaurant Style
K is for Kati Roll: Vegetables and Paneer
L is for Lasuni Dal Palak: Vegetables and Lentils


  1. hi nupur, it was such a joy going thru the myriad display of M dishes! Great round up!

  2. M is also for Meeta - and Meeta is MAD about Malai Kofta!!
    That malai kofta looks toooo good, Nupur. I am going to bookmark this one and certainly try it on my judges ;-)

  3. I am learning so much. Thanks for all your work. Love the sound of some of these mango dishes. I notice that they are on sale here right now too.

  4. That's a LOT of M dishes Nupur.Matki beans was new to many of them!I had to post a photo just to show them:)

    Excellent array and Malai Kofta looks fabulous,loved the color.I see some new blogger this time.

    Thanks for taking time for round up this Sunday.

  5. Fabulous round-up Nupur :).

    and those koftas looks gorgeous. its really hard not to munch them as is :). You sure have some resolve to save these for the curry.....i would have polished off them all :).

  6. Oh my that looks good! This is one I will definitely have to try. Do you have any trouble with 2% milk curdling when added to the hot tomato mixture? I've found skim milk is horrible in tomato soup, but maybe 2% is a good compromise. Another question - you had mentioned the moth beans before and I had looked for them in my local Indian grocery without luck. Here you say they're not available in American stores - do you mean regular grocery stores or are they not to be found at all here?

  7. hi Nupur,
    thanks so much dear for the lovely round up. so many lovely recipes from "M". loved the pics too.

  8. Richa, thanks for participating! :)

    Meeta, hope you get to try it! And do ask your judges to be easy on me :)

    Kalyn, yes, I saw some mangoes on sale at Whole Foods too. They were too tart to eat out of hand, but would be perfect for some of these dishes!

    Asha, thanks for participating...matki was a nice entry!

    Musical, it does take will-power not to gobble 'em up! :)

    Cathy, I never even thought of the problem of milk splitting in the curry! In this case, it seemed to be OK but in future, it might be something to keep in mind. The moth beans- I did mean American supermarkets (as in brown lentils are found in all US stores but the moth beans are not). Moth is quite easily found in Indian stores here in the US. I just bought a large packet last week.

    Sharmi, glad you liked it! I'm going to try making your thokku :)

  9. Looks like the no. participants are
    increasing with every week... Great roundup....

  10. nupur, lovely round up and those malai koftas look yummy.

  11. Nupur, your malai koftas look delicious. Will try these out soon. Great going with A-Z Indian vegetables Nupur.

  12. hey nupur

    great recipe and great prepsentation .Will surely prepare it soon

  13. nupur
    Wow delicious recipes with M,i realised i too had an M recipe but too late. Will try to participate next time.

    Fabulous recipes yummy!

  14. Nupur...great show and great event..I get to learn so many recipes from this one event..:-)..and your malai koftas are too tempting to not try ..:-)

  15. hi nupur,
    sorry to be posting my Q:) here.i just went thru ur caramel custard recipe.Just wanna know can i use the same recipe and steam them in a pressure cooker.Urgent....
    yummy recipes...keep working

  16. Ayesha, yes, I'm so thrilled that so many bloggers are participating!

    Reena, Pavani and Deepa, thanks :)

    Roopa, I'm sorry you missed the deadline :( Would love to have an entry some other time!

    Santhi, I learn so much from this event too!

    Anon, yes, it should work just mom (who's recipe this is) used to steam in a pressure cooker (without the whistle). I just used an oven because I had an oven and had no pressure cooker big enough.

  17. Ah, M is for dumplings!! I love dumplings, no matter what they're called. I will definitely try your recipe. I'm collecting so many new ideas from your alphabet -- thank you once again for this amazing project.

  18. Lovely round up. :) Whats great is your explanation of these wonderful indredients with their pictures as well. :) And to do it week after week is no joke..... I know how much of hardwork it it to do a round up. :)
    Hats off to your nupur. :)

    The small bookmark of recipes that you provide at the end of every post is wonderful!!!! I think I can do away with my favourite list.... just book mark your blog. :)

  19. Hey Nupur
    Great Round Up.Love Malai Kofta...the koftas look so so good that I am terribly hungry, my tummy is growling just by looking at them

  20. Hi Nupur, Awesome round up on M.Cant wait to try malai kofta soon.Durga

  21. we shy away from koftas because of the deep frying. yours look healthy and inviting.

  22. wow , so many M dishes..Kofta looks yummy.

  23. I loved Malai koftas back in India. But never attempted to try them. Your koftas look delicious. I am going to bookmark this recipe.

    btw..your lasuni dal palak was one of the best garlicy dishes I have tasted. I had tried adding lots of garlic before but never used to get that taste. Thanks a lot.

  24. I spent close to 1 hr going thru the entire post..You have inspired so many people to come up with wonderful dishes..I wud hate missing the A-Z for anything..I start to panic if I have nothing ready by Friday night:)..All the dishes are yummy..
    I have been shying away from making any kinds of kofta..But, it's time I try them now..I don't like the restaurant style malai kofta..They are so sweet..This version looks good..Thanks for sharing!

  25. What a roundup!!
    The malai-kofta looks simply delish (to borrow RR's term).

  26. I just discovered your blog when this post this post about Warli-style paintings came up in a Google image search I was doing. (Turning an eyesore into a rotating gallery is a very cool idea on your parents part , by the way.)

    I just wanted to say thank you so much for all the Marathi recipes. Recipes for regional cuisines are so much harder to find in cookbooks. My 7 year old adopted daughter was born and lived her first 20 months in Pune. In the crush of everyday demands, it is sometimes hard to find ways to have Indian experiences. Your emphasis on relatively easy, every day recipes has inspired me to try to incorporate some into our weekly menus.

    Of course, I'll have to try the least spicy ones. The irony is that my Indian daughter finds much Indian food too spicy while my son whose ethnic heritage is mostly Irish and German snarfs down spicy vegetable pakora greedily and then begs for more. Go figure.

    Thanks again. Keep those recipes coming.

  27. Hi Mary Lynn, your comment just made my day! I am so delighted and touched that you are using some of my recipes to cook for your wonderfully diverse family. I'm sure your little girl will enjoy a little bit of spice as she grows up...I was a notoriously picky eater until I got to my teen years :) With most Indian recipes, you can dramatically reduce the amount of heat (chilies and chili powder) and still keep the flavor intact. Enjoy the recipes, and if you have a particular request, don't hesitate to mail me!


Thanks for leaving a comment- I try to respond to every single one.