Thursday, January 24, 2013

Palak Kofta Curry - A healthier version (Vegetable balls in spinach gravy curry)

Palak kofta curry is a curry made with deep fried vegetable balls in spinach gravy curry. There are many versions of this curry some with cream or milk and almost always with the koftas (ie the vegetable balls) deep fried.  I used to avoid making koftas mainly because of the deep fried element. But ever since I started using my appa kaarai (aebleskiver pan) for making things like koftas and pakoras for kadhi  among other things, it has freed me to make more variety of dishes in our menu without having to worry about the calories from deep frying. So we get to enjoy a variety of things without the guilt  :)

It does take a little longer to make then deep frying because you have to slow cook, but I usually prep the other things while the kofta/ pakoras/or whatever else I am attempting that day is getting ready and don't mind that it takes a little while longer. It is definitely an acceptable tradeoff when considering I get to save some calories in the process:)

 Palak Kofta Curry (Veggie balls in spinach gravy curry)

One additional thing I have done to make this curry healthier is to sneak in some oatmeal and flax into the kofta. I know some of you are probably thinking that this would mess with the taste. But trust me no one will guess, the oats and flax seamlessly blend in with the potatoes and bread and cannot be made out at all. It really is a cool way to sneak in some additional fiber into this dish without impacting the taste :)
The recipe and ingredients seem a little long and daunting but it is really pretty simple and straightforward and makes a good side for a variety of dishes anything from plain steamed rice to flavored rice to Indian flat breads like naan, roti, chapathi or paratha :)

Palak kofta curry

Click here for a printable view of this recipe

Ingredients and Method to make Palak Kofta curry

For the Koftas (Vegetable balls)
3 medium potatoes cooked until soft
1/4 cup rolled oats dry roasted and powdered fine
2 heaped tbsp flax meal (powdered flax seeds)
2 slices wheat or oat bread
1/4 tsp salt
a few drops of oil to cook the balls

Cook the potatoes until soft. Cool, peel and mash the potatoes.

Dry roast rolled oats, cool and powder in a spice grinder/ mixer/ blender until mostly fine and add to the mashed potatoes. Add flax seed meal and salt to the mashed potatoes and mix well.

Dip the bread slices in a bowl of water, remove immediately, strain and add the bread to the potatoes and mix well. Make small lime sized balls with the potato mixture. Heat an aebleskiver pan (appa kaarai) on medium heat and add a couple of drops of oil in each mold. If you want to see a picture of a appa kaarai check out this link. Add one ball into each mold and allow to cook on medium heat turning in between to ensure even cooking, when it turns golden brown remove and keep aside. For a little quicker cooking add about 1/4 tsp oil per mold and it cooks much faster that way. But make sure to keep the heat on medium while the koftas cook. Proceed with the rest of the koftas in the same manner.

For the Spinach (Palak) Gravy
5 cups packed spinach leaves ( I used baby spinach) (palak)
1/4 cup broken cashews soaked in sufficient water for at least 30 mins
1 red onion cut fine and ground to a paste
3 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 inch ginger
2 Thai or Indian variety green chilies (or to taste)
1 clove garlic (optional)
salt to taste
1/2 tsp garam masala (or to taste)( for the recipe for homemade garam masala click here)
1/2 tsp chili powder (or to taste) (optional)
1 to 2 tbsp oil 

Place spinach leaves in a heavy bottomed pan with a little water and cook until soft. Remove from heat, cool and puree until mostly smooth.

Cut onion finely and grind to a paste. Grind ginger, garlic and green chilies to a smooth paste and keep aside.

Grind cashew with a little water to a smooth paste and keep aside.

Heat oil in the same pan and add the ground onion paste and saute until it looses its raw smell and cooks well. Do this on low to medium low heat and take your time with this step to ensure the onion cooks well. Then add ginger, garlic green chili paste and stir a few times. Then add tomato paste and stir for a few seconds. Add garam masala, stir a couple of times. Then add pureed spinach, salt to taste, chili powder if using and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Add cashew paste, add water to achieve required consistency and simmer for another minute or so for the flavors to mingle on low to medium low heat.
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Add the koftas just before serving and serve hot with plain steamed rice, jeera rice, or pulao or any kind of Indian flat bread like rotis/ chapathis/ parathas.
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